Album of the week : Lost songs - The Trail Of Dead

…And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead, to give the band their full name, have been kicking about for quite some time now. Eight albums and eighteen years into their musical career, Trail Of Dead are still the world’s most abrasive indie rock band. Their eighth album, Lost Songs is a collection of sixteen tracks (or twelve tracks, if you’re not hip enough to attain the vinyl edition) of eclectic indie rock that never sticks to formula or slows down… and it’s all the better for that

Lost Songs is a credit to the band. It strikes up a balance between intelligent indie rock stompers that can at times verge on the edges of punk rock and a new lighter, catchier side of their arsenal. Opener

‘Open Doors’ kicks off with a swirl of tribal percussion and ominous synth drone. The track quickly explodes into a face-melting clatter, with co-frontman Conrad Keely wrangling out waves of distortion over Jason Reece’s pummelling beats. Suddenly, the urgency that’s been missing for more than a decade comes tumbling into focus

‘Pinhole Cameras’ is basically a punk rock song, and is a fist pump/mosh inspirer. Incredibly fast sounding for a roughly five minute track, it features a minute or so long slacker rock slowing down before running straight back into rock out territory. Whilst that may sound bizarre and a bad idea, it’s actually genius, and makes the track one of the most memorable punk songs that’s been written in quite some time

The lighter side of Lost Songs is a bit disconcerting in contrast with its heavier edge, but does make the album a multidimensional entity. ‘Time And Again’ is an upbeat indie-pop track featuring acoustic guitars! Foot-tap and head-nod worthy, it’s a highlight of the album and is incredibly catchy. ‘Skywhaling’ will be used on the soundtrack of movies like Juno. It’s extremely laid-back and makes it seem like a summer’s day making it the complete opposite of opening two tracks

But Trail Of Dead hasn’t abandoned its prog ambitions—it’s refined them. Keely’s written some of his most emotionally direct songs to date, pulling lyrical inspiration from American cynicism and the social freedom he’s experienced living in Cambodia. But Lost Songs’ real star is Reece, who—frenzied drumming aside—re-emerges as a dynamic frontman foil: On ‘A Place To Rest’, he screams himself hoarse over endless guitar squeals. On the relentless ‘Catatonic’, he alternates between a victorious yelp and a soothing melodic calm, rallying against pampered modern complacency

Fantasy epics and ageism aside, Lost Songs’ strongest moment is also its most personal. ‘Time And Again’ examines the slippery dynamics of being in a band with both acceptance and melancholia, and sports a pop jangle that automatically sets it apart from the maelstrom of the group’s other songs. “I had this crazy feeling that I had lost you again/ looked about to find out where you are,” Keely sings at his gentlest to a former band-mate. “Turned around and caught your frown standing on the street/ dressed the colour of your guitar.” He goes on to mourn soured relationships and friends who have succumbed to their vices, but also celebrates the fact that they knew each other in the first place. It runs deep with emotional resonance, and is likely to burrow even into the consciousness of anyone repelled by Lost Songs’ graphic novel mythology or sometimes overzealous politics

The album finishes off with ‘Idols Of Perversity’ a somewhat showy, prog reminiscent track, which is the closest the album gets to indulgence

Overall, Lost Songs is a great album. At sixteen tracks, it could possibly have done with a little more editing, as certain tracks feature more than a shadow of others on the album. The album never gets stagnant and avoids the pitfalls of sticking to the same sound or mellowing out with age It feels like  …And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead have quite a few albums in them yet

Buy it here

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