Pitchfork doesn’t dish out top marks anywhere near as frequently as so many of the UK’s monthlies do, especially not when it comes to new releases (though reissues get a smoother ride, typically). So this was reason enough to leave an opinion on a messageboard somewhere in the blogosphere. But Kanye’s A-star, smiley-faced, have-a-house-point report card wasn’t unprecedented. Rewind, again: 2002, and a raucous, violent, firmly underground (for all their efforts) rock outfit from Texas are the recipients of a 10/10 review on the same site. …Trail of Dead might not have been big, but they were loud, and with their third long-player they successfully showcased a developed compositional ability that outstripped not only their past efforts, but most rock albums released in the last decade.
After 1999’s Madonna, the group’s second LP, earned them a fairly small but fiercely loyal international following, …Trail of Dead – fronted primarily by the vocal powerhouses of Jason Reece and Conrad Keely (and backed by Neil Busch and Kevin Allen) – were snapped up by major label Interscope. Source Tags & Codes therefore had a bigger budget behind it than the band was previously accustomed to – and they made every dollar count, with not a second of space wasted. While volume was still front and centre, the group worked on a series of orchestral embellishments and horn sections to flesh their punk-energised arrangements into final wholes that swoop and soar, dazzling with accomplished polish yet – and this is very important – still rocking immeasurably hard.
Where to begin? With the beginning, actually – Invocation is the first sign that more is most certainly more on this set, a piano line weaving its way through a succession of seemingly-radio-sourced samples before the disc erupts, after a telegraphing bass drop, into It Was There That I Saw You. It’s an electrifying opening, two minutes which immediately impress. And it goes on, stunningly and assuredly – from Another Morning Stoner’s intoxicating grooves and super-tight snare beats; through Days of Being Wild, a song that demands to be played at a level that no stereo manufactured to date can manage, and the awesomely epic How Near How Far; to the cool relief of the title-track. If you picked up the UK special edition, Blood Rites brings the record to a close with a lung-busting finality.
A masterpiece of its time, Source Tags & Codes really does deserve to be held in as high regard as In Rainbows or Funeral, or any other critical triumph of recent history. Top marks, warranted. Fast forward a month or so and …Trail of Dead are back with album seven, Tao of the Dead. But it’s unlikely to resonate with its audience in the same way as this, a record that I, personally, could happily listen to ‘til the end of days without ever growing tired of.
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More accessible than predeccessor 'Madonna', 'Source..' is an album that can lilt and rock in equal measures, part Sonic Youth and part Mudhoney an intelligent sound and lyrical content transfer well from the now legendary and incendiary live performances. Those who were worried about the band 'selling out' to a major label need'nt of worried, the result is a cohesive album from a band who seem to have found their niche (no 'nu-' or 'post-' references in sight). My advice go out and buy it's worth the effort.
Previously they have shown their potential, namely with the headline track of their last album, 'Mistakes & Regrets'. Now the band have matured their musical abilities and exceeded earlier efforts. What makes this album so great isn't just that every track is brilliant in it's own right, but that it is actually structured into an album. Many bands simply come up with a few good songs, and a lot of average ones, then just put them in any random order on a cd and call it an album. It is only when actually listen to the cd that you realise it is simply a collection a singles with cheap filler pasted into the gaping gaps.
But with 'Trail of Dead', time is spent ordering the album, and weaving the tracks together with beautiful interludes. This is done so well with this album that often you do not realise that the track you were listening to has ended and a new one has begun. The first two tracks, 'Invocation' and 'It Was There That I Saw You' are perfect examples of this. 'Invocation' is a mismerising piano intro that beckons you into the album. Then what you think is simply the addition of guitars to this is the next track 'It Was There That I Saw You'. This rollercoaster of a song begins with boundless energy and vocals to match, before dying down into a subtlety, then firing back up again to finish.
'Another Morning Stoner' is their first single of the album, led by an awesome guitar riff along with inspiring lyrics. 'How Near How Far' is another beautiful demonstration of their musical abilities, with guitars and drums drifting around a solid base of vocals.... Read more ›
'Source Tags & Codes' represents a definite progression for the band. The mid-song wig outs and art rock excesses of old have been curbed, without any loss of the visceral guitar attack and breathless dynamics that the band have become renowned for. In return for this more focused approach, the band have futher developed their melodies and hooklines to the point that you will just have to go back and listen to certain tracks again and agin. Moreover, the step up to a major label has paid off in droves, with the higher production standards and subtle use of horns and strings giving the songs a fuller sound than they might have had before.
It is too early to be talking about albums of the year, but if this record is not in the running come December then we are in for some great music over the next nine months.
Trail of dead however manage to pull away from that shadow and are the first band, to be honest, lately with any ion of talent. I was not a fan before i bought this album and this being the first one i bought propelled me to buy the others and im now an avid fan and there presence greats the top shelf with the likes of NIN, The Smashing Pumpkins, Alec empire, and a perfect circle.
The sound of the album is very erratic with random clips from previous albums played within an interlude between tracks which adds a sense of indiviuality, the tracks that caught be at first relative ways, monsoon and homage not to mention amazingly soft intro's that capture a sense in time much like the smashing pumpkins mellon collie.... first track.
The band are not as widely known as they should be and arent played nearly enough. I would advise any current fan to buy this album much like "madonna" youll struggle to decide which is best, however if you are deciding which album to buy first id advise you to go for madonna or their self titled debut to introduce you to the band AS this album is very much them at their best and you wouldnt want to spoil the other albums.
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