Louder Than War

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Review: Trail of Dead - Worlds Apart

...And You Shall Know Us By The Trail Of Dead - Worlds Apart

I have to say I encountered momentary excitement when I approached this album - I was a huge fan of the trail of dead back at the tender age of 16. Their debut, Madonna, remains an excellent example of art-punk noise and destruction combined with prog pomposity. They were quickly snapped up by Interscope records, and made the great Source Tags and Codes.

So its a shame then that Worlds Apart seems to be the sound of a band veering off the rails.

The LP opens with Overture, which orchestrates the dramatic atmos for the second track Will You Smile Again. This is already easily the best material on the album - not a hundred light years away from either Madonna or Source Tags, utilising the Trail's familiar veryveryloud-quiet-crescendo song form.

But it is the title track that colours the whole album. It might have been alright or excusable if it wasn't named after the album, or that the album was named after it. It comes quickly after Smile, after a rather childish sample of a Trailer shouting 'HEY FUCK YOU MAN'. The song kicks into what sounds vaguely like a Pogues parody with ever-so-slightly angrier guitars. Its upbeat, but the lyrics... the lyrics...

"Look at these cunts on MTV/ Cars and 'Cribs' and rings and shit/ Is that what being a celebrity means?"

and

"See corpses, rapes, and amputees/What do you think now of the American dream?"

Yes, evidently. But what does being a celebrity mean, Conrad? The truth is, Worlds Apart is the kind of lazy song someone like Britney Spears or Timberkake would attempt to pull off to gain some kind of credibility. Here, the opposite is true. Trail of Dead already basked in credibility; yet their song writing here is patently lazy. To add insult to injury, the War reference seems tacked on without any actual thought. Billy Bragg would be embarrassed.

Its a sorry start, in all. The song is riddled with so many cliches that it can only make you wonder what on earth drove them to pen the song? Was some major label big wig (they're on Interscope, remember) push them to write something so ironically mainstream in order to gain radio time? An element of hypocrisy can be called as well seeing as, being signed to a major, this is surely the kind of lifestyle that they would like to experience. Why else would have he sworn like he did at the end of track one? Because they want to be huge fucking rock stars that want to live like huge fucking rock stars who say fuck you a lot. Like Elton John.

The rest of the album feels like a mediocre slug of radio friendly rock. There's very, very little here that you couldn't get from other average XFM friendly rock band from the last 10 years. Almost nothing stands out as infectious, stirring or passionate as anything from Madonna or Source Tags. There is nothing as genuinely anthemic as A Perfect Teenhood or Relative Ways here. Forget anything as angry as Mistakes and Regrets. The rest of the words are unmemorable. You'd wish them to swear at you and really mean it... But its all empty gesture. On top of that, the orchestral interludes serve little purpose at all but merely to prolong the mediocrity.

The loss of the angst and speed may be seen by some as a kind of maturity, but the former was part of the very appeal, because they were very good at it. Without it they are just any other average rock band - trying to make up for the lack of imagination with a contrived rant about the state of the music industry. But at least he's thinking about the amputees.

Fuck you man.

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