Not difficult third album. Very good indeed...
[I]”When you have rhythm, you want to dance. When you have the blues, you
want to kill”[/I] – Conrad Keeley, Astoria, 2001
They might be unreliable witnesses and inveterate storytellers – there
can be few musicians unbothered enough by their [I]”careers”[/I] to substitute
a proper website biography with an anthropological text on Mayan ritual
– but there’s never been any doubt that …And You Will Know Us By The
Trail Of Dead are a band to trust. Sure, they might be likely to hurl a
bass drum at your head during times of high tension – but at a cultural
moment when the very concept of an [I]”underground”[/I] has somehow become
slightly embarrassing, Keeley, Neil Busch,
Jason Reece and Kevin Allen
sound as if they were born to a life of unfettered noise. [I]”An
electric guitar hanging to my knees /got a couple of verses I can barely
breath”[/I] they sing on the almost-mellow ‘Relative Ways’, a love song
to rock’n’roll, and you can sense how much all this can – should – mean.
Certainly, they could have been forgiven for reining those destructive
urges and playing it safe with their third album: not only is it their
major label debut, it follows the thrilling success of The Strokes and
The White Stripes – neither of whom were a glint in the public eye when
the Trail Of Dead first crashed into view like Thurston Moore’s own
winged monkeys. Accordingly, ‘Source Tags And Codes’ comes with an
albatross-like weight of expectation round its skinny neck – yet
happily, it’s supported by a band who have grown to match it.
Admittedly, within the first three songs the band have already
quadrupled their tune-count – the helter-skelter urgency of ‘It Was
There That I Saw You’, the bloody riff-sacrifice of ‘Another Morning
Stoner’ and the diving board bounce of ‘Baudelaire’ all easily equalling
‘Mistakes And Regrets’ from ‘Madonna’ – yet this album hardly
represents the taming of their curious muse. On the ominous thud of
‘Homage’ or the drum-scuttle of ‘How Near, How Far’, their smash-and-
grab dynamic manages the neat trick of sounding simultaneously untutored
and highly focused, following new twisted threads out from the early-
90s underground labyrinth.
[I]”Do you believe what I say?”[/I] screams Jason Reece repeatedly on ‘Homage’
– and even knowing their ways, you can only say yes. With so much to
play for, so much Butch-And-Sundance, death-or-glory adrenalin, ‘Source
Tags And Codes’ leaves you feeling that the killing can wait for another
day. For now, we dance.