You can learn a lot about Austin’s …And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead when you take a forensic look at—well, its trail. Since joining forces in the mid-’90s, multi-instrumentalists Conrad Keely and Jason Reece have presided over eight albums, numerous lineup changes, several stylistic left turns across the prog-psych-noise-rock continuum, and enough bar brawls and smashed guitars to fill a weekend police blotter.
Yet for all the unpredictable shenanigans of a Trail of Dead tour, an explosive catharsis has been at the restless heart of its music from the beginning. Lost Songs, its latest album, hones that sensibility to a diamond-hard edge. Keely leads the way on the single “Up to Infinity,” which cooks from the inside out with punkish intensity. Reece takes his turn on “Catatonic,” a driving, fist-raised indictment of apathy that spawned a video featuring Reece as a corrupt politician named Rich Dobney (sound familiar?) who, among other vices, blithely lights his cigars with wads of burning C-notes.
Stripped down to a quartet with bassist Autry Fulbright II and drummer Jamie Miller, Trail of Dead can still generate the gigantic sound of 2002’s quasi-orchestral epic Source Tags & Codes. But with the mercurial, charismatic Keely at the helm, the band is as liable to launch into bursts of thrash as drawn-out instrumental fugues. Feel free to stand close, provided you’re open to the possibility of getting doused in something other than sweat.—Bill Murphy
Follow Bill Murphy on Twitter: @RoninScribe