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And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead – Tao of the Dead

on February 04, 2011, 8:00am
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Here‘s a comparison from the left most part of the field: The recent efforts by both Interpol and …And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead are fairly similar (now let that settle in for a moment.)  While the New York shoegaze of Interpol is in a different universe compared to the Austin, TX post-rock of Trail of Dead, the self-titled LP by the former and Tao of the Dead by the latter each tell a story with the sonics of the record. But while Interpol’s story was grand and swelling, Tao of the Dead is just as epic in scope while still displaying a lot of subtlety and variances.

Tao of the Dead is a giant opus of fuzzy psych rock, meant to be imbibed over and over again as one giant piece of music, like some orchestral movement. When you look at the record from that standpoint, there’s several booming successes along with a few somewhat substantial tweaks that could have further boosted its impact. The opening track, “Let Us Experiment”, is the perfect low-key, minimalist instrumental start you could ask for. It leads off perfectly into tracks like “Pure Radio Cosplay”, a countrified jam of pure fun, which then leads brilliantly into “Summer of All Dead Souls”, a rollicking punk-inspired blast. The album is full of great transitions like that, many of which don’t synch up perfectly but are instead shared by a few notes or a general sense they’re meant to instill within the listener. The influences and genres spun together allow each track to stand on its own and still continue the overture of destruction. There’s also moments where music is revisited later in the effort, as with “Pure Radio Cosplay (reprise)”, which only further establishes the record’s overall feel and general ease in getting yourself wrapped up in it.

Unfortunately, as brilliantly shaped as the musical narrative of the LP is, there’s one giant flaw: the 16-minute “The Ship Impossible”. My normal concerns about such lengths aside, this lull nearly kills the hype and momentum of the album. Apparently made up of five different songs, this unique approach is somewhat damaging and may have been prevented if they had given each track its own time, as the rest of the LP flows smoothly in the smaller increments. Or, perhaps if it had be chosen as a mid-album interlude, it may have worked, especially since even shorter cuts, like the under-two-minutes “Spiral Jetty”, have more of a dramatic flair and the power to end the album on a truly high note (of bone-crushing depression, naturally).

Unlike its fancy cousin from the city, several tracks on Tao of the Dead could actually stand on their own as honest-to-goodness singles. “Weight of the Sun (or the Post-Modern Prometheus)” begins its existence as a strummy number that rapidly evolves into a round of screaming vocals and furious guitar work that eventually settles into a sweet spot of complicated folk rock. Even the dark, heavy, and experimental track “Somewhere Over The Double Rainbow” has some solitary staying power, undoubtedly because the whole track is a mish-mash of synths, metal, folk, standard rock and roll, and a whole lot of noise, all with the speed and precision of some uber badass prog. It’s important to have moments like this in a “concept” album that’s meant to be taken as one massive 52-minute expression; doing so gives the listener a break and focuses on momentary satisfactions in order to properly digest this cornucopia of solid rock goodness.

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