London Highbury Garage

[B]...The Trail Of Dead[/B] are brilliant.

One song in, and …The Trail Of Dead have mangled their equipment so badly it looks like they can’t continue. Two songs later, bassist Neil Busch stands grimacing in front of his amp kicking it in an attempt to get it to work. Singer, guitarist and sometime drummer Conrad Keely steps up to a mic and starts to explain what’s going on. No-one can hear him, though, so he breaks into a smile and attempts to shove his guitar through his amp. Twenty seconds later, you realise they’re starting another song.

Let’s not skirt the issue here: …The Trail Of Dead are brilliant. Right this second, they’re the greatest rock’n’roll band in the world: a chaotic, messed-up, flailing-limbed eruption of white noise and kinetic energy. They come onstage to a looped tape of a furious Pete Townshend, and then proceed to make The Who look like Belle & Sebastian – as they career around the stage, smashing into drums, amps, mics, stray audience members and anything else that gets in their way. No wonder their equipment breaks all the time.

It’s often been said that …The Trail Of Dead sound like Sonic Youth. Well, maybe the Sonic Youth of 13 years ago, before they disappeared up the wretched art-rock cul-de-sac they currently inhabit. For the most part, they sound like a cosmic collision of Pussy Galore, the Jesus And Mary Chain, The Stooges, MC5, The Who, Mudhoney and every other two-bit, attitude-|ber-alles punk group that’s crawled from the swamp over the last 30 years.

Every member of the group sings the songs he wrote, so Conrad Keely and drummer Jason Reece are constantly swapping roles, desperately trying to outdo each other as they writhe and thrash and scream their way through each song. Everything they play (‘Richter Scale Madness’ and ‘Fake Eyes’ from their debut LP, ‘Mistakes And Regrets’ and ‘Aged Dolls’ from their recent ‘Madonna’ album) sounds like a mini-detonation in your head, crescendos of feedback crashing into layers and layers of arc-lite drumming.

By the time they reach closing number ‘A Perfect Teenhood’, Conrad Keely is screaming into a mic held with one hand and playing his guitar with the other. He throws himself at the drumkit and it collapses on the ground. The stage is then swamped with kids, while the rest of the group lie on their backs kicking their legs in the air. As their stage crew hurriedly draw a curtain across the stage, the feedback’s still cascading from the amps. Somehow you knew it would be.