...And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead - Lost Songs (Superball)

Trail of Dead preach to the converted on eighth LP, albeit in some style

Released Oct 22nd, 2012 via Superball / By Alex Kealy
...And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead - Lost Songs (Superball) The slowly loudening guitar cries that hail the arrival of …And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead’s eighth record seem to mimic an approaching ambulance’s wail. Not that this is an album in need of any emergency medical attention. Lost Songs is the sound of a band, if not quite at the height of its powers, operating from a base camp to be envied by their peers.

It may be less ambitious than 2011’s prog-influenced Tao of the Dead, with its 17-minute closer; less genre-bending than 2005’s Worlds Apart; and – like all artists cursed with the blessing of an early masterpiece – suffers from comparison with 2002’s Source Tags and Codes. However, Trail of Dead have come up with an effort that channels the relentless power of their earlier days, and a production that’s scuzzier than their newer work, yet all benefiting from stylistic touches a band can only glean from two decades’ experience.

Take ‘Pinhole Cameras’, an attack on the excesses of modern image consumption, a view echoed by photographer Nick Danziger, who has suggested restricting people to one photo a day might improve the quality - and our appreciation - of photographs. The track rollicks along nicely with muscular riffs and drum rolls, alongside Conrad Keely’s urgent words, but this is counterbalanced by a woozy guitar break-down that would have been alien to the band prior to Tao of the Dead. It’s a highlight.

Elsewhere, the album is capable of a surprise or two. The initial guitar-work of ‘Catatonic’ is oddly reminiscent of the math-rock of Giraffes? Giraffes! or That Fucking Tank. The overt complexity of this is soon dissolved within a more recognisable Trail of Dead brand of dirge-y sing-along, but occasionally it rears its head again. Dirge-y sing-alongs are also present and correct in the energy of ‘Bright Young Things’ and ‘Heart of Wires’. Their throaty choruses are perhaps a little too similar, but both should please fans of the band’s earlier sound.

The title track itself is also of note. A morose ode to orphaned songs in a world drenched in music and lacking listeners, it manages to be even more glum than The Smith’s Rubber Ring’. While Morrissey laments how we outgrow the music that has sustained us and warns not to “forget the songs that saved your life”, Keely pines for the forever homeless lost songs “going nowhere, lost for words, with nothing to share”. A song of songs isn’t exactly original (things which share names with books from the Old Testament rarely are) but it’s heartfelt and ably supported with fluttering guitar chimes.

Lost Songs rails against apathy: Keely urges the listener to “Get out! Get awestruck!” It’s a frequent theme from Trail of Dead, with the frenetic ‘Prometheus’ – the lead cut from Tao of the Dead – reminding us of the sheer thrill of flight in a time when plane travel is usually associated with stress, fear and the mundane. They’re probably preaching to the converted and open-minded, but it’s a message to take to heart and delivered with a punch.