…And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead: London ULU

Bands can't survive on reckless posturing alone, not even ones who look and behave like mod pixies drunk on the Stooges? blood...

A bad reputation is both blessing and curse. The blazing myth of …And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead has spread over the past year, thanks in no small part to the fervid proselytising of the band themselves. There’ll be riots, goes the rhetoric, astonishing feats of instrument-trashing, scenes of wanton abandon as band collide with audience. And if you don’t come home with splinters from a guitar embedded in your cranium, then it must’ve been an off night.

It’s a dilemma plainly on the minds of Trail Of Dead at this, their biggest UK show to date. So much so, in fact, singer/guitarist/drummer (they swap gear like lightning) and Eddie Izzard lookalike Jason Reece is compelled to make a speech about how the music’s more important than the spectacle to the band and their proper fans.

He has a point: bands can’t survive on reckless posturing alone, not even ones who look and behave like mod pixies drunk on the Stooges’ blood. And Trail Of Dead frequently make a tremendous noise, gargantuan waves of guitar skree, pulverised rhythms and wayward yelp that prove the concept of tunes has, historically, been much overrated. Their most memorable song, ‘Mistakes And Regrets’, is inevitably the one closest to Sonic Youth, a comparison which persistently dogs them. But people come wanting drama and destruction, in the same way they expect to see Nick Oliveri’s cock at a Queens Of The Stone Age show, or Casey Chaos’ blood at an Amen gig. And Trail Of Dead, damned by their own capacity to create excitement, are at their best when they hurtle out of control.

For the last 15 minutes, then, any lingering music is finally blasted apart as they embark on a heroically random sequence of rants, quotes, skronk and damage. One minute, singer/guitarist/drummer Conrad Keeley’s balancing on top of the speaker stack. The next, he’s back onstage, holding a cymbal and stand over the moshpit and beating shit out of it, while two bouncers try and drag it away from snatching hands. Eventually, the whole drumkit’s kicked over, the band’s in the crowd, the crowd’s on the stage, someone’s by the side clutching what appears to be a broken nose, and it’s fairly clear there won’t be any encores.

Anything else would’ve been an anti-climax. But perhaps Trail Of Dead are trapped into behavioural patterns by their own devotion to the wild extremes of rock’n’roll. As they’re evidently realising, once you’ve ripped everything to shreds, what’s next? How do you top carnage? Figure that out and it’ll be the making of this exceptional, ridiculous band.

John Mulvey