Whenever a band decides to revisit one of its older albums, basically presenting it as if it were an entirely new work, questions need to be asked such as ‘what makes this album so different from that bands other music?’, ‘is it just about a nostalgia factor or are other elements at work?’, ‘is there a new album also underway?’ and perhaps other questions depending on which particular group of musicians are doing this.
Specifically, what we have here are …And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead (Trail Of Dead for typing convenience) reissuing and touring their second album ‘Madonna’, which they are playing live in its entirety during their current tour. Formed in Austin, Texas in the mid 1990s, Trail Of Dead obviously think much of what was their second actual full length release, the work of a band whose name, I need to say, has never really appealed to me greatly, conjuring as it does images of war, plague, famine and other less than pleasant situations. They may not have wanted to attract an audience of the merely curious, deciding that their audience had to commit to their music on some subliminal level rather than just turn up to see just another indie rock act, a trait they perhaps shared with others such as Death From Above 1979, The Mars Volta and Fugazi, other bands with whom they share an ethos of sorts.
Actually listen to ‘Madonna’ (por que?) and realise that Trail Of Dead are a lot more than the doomrock protagonists their name might suggest. They probably didn’t title the album after the actual ‘Into The Groove’ Madonna either, although its probable that they were aware of her mid 80s collaborations with Sonic Youth. This is a distraction from the album itself though, a combination of indie rock and sound collage that has retained its powers over two decades, because as opposed to in spite of the present day familiarity with its recurring thrash rock motifs, an album that at various moments references (or at least appears to) more or less any memorable indie rock band of the late 80s/90s, and certain tracks – notably the tightly paced histrionics of ‘Blight Takes All’, the grunge experiment that is ‘Flood Of Red’ and the prog influenced improvisation of ‘Aged Dolls’ have worn exceptionally well. Throughout the album, Trail Of Dead never once appear to repeat themselves, instead taking every chance they could to make something that sounded diametrically opposite to whatever preceded it. This includes the short tracks that appear as interludes between some of the full length tracks, which seem to have been pieced together at random from found tapes and other accidentally recorded sound. The resultant air of unpredictability makes at least a first listen to ‘Madonna’ a potentially nerve-shredding experience, depending on the listeners actual mood.
Trail Of Dead’s second album is beyond question a potent, virulent and inspirational album, and we should perhaps thank them for reminding us that it ever existed and it’s certainly more than just a blast from the stoner rock past. But of course that is exactly what it is, a product of what now resembles a heyday of bands whose actual creativity and colourfully mordant imagery seems at odds with the languid folk harmonies and psyche pop that fill the playlists today. Maybe Smashing Pumpkins and Jane’s Addiction could do something similar to what Trail Of Dead are doing now and they could all go off on a revolving headline tour together, and get Thurston Moore to DJ it. It seems as if, twenty years on from its initial release, that Trail Of Dead want to give us all a reminder of something more than just their thirteen track second album.
30th January – Le Petit Bain, Paris, France
1st February – The Garage, London, UK
2nd February – Castle & Falcon, Birmingham, UK
4th February – Brudenell Social Club, Leeds, UK
5th February – Komedia, Bath, UK
6th February – Manchester Academy, Manchester, UK
7th February – The Art School, Glasgow, UK
8th February – O2 Academy, Oxford, UK
9th February – Esquires, Bedford, UK
10th February – Storey’s Field Center, Cambridge, UK
11th February – The Haunt, Brighton, UK
12th February – Trix, Antwerp, Belgium
13th February – Vera, Groningen, Netherlands
14th February – Tivolivriedenburg, Utrecht, Netherlands
16th February – Mascotte, Zurich, Switzerland
19th February – Zakk, Dusseldorf, Germany
21st February – Manufaktur, Schorndorf, Germany
22nd February – E-Werk, Erlangen, Germany
23rd February – Covo Club, Bologna, Italy
25th February – Beatpol, Dresden, Germany
26th February – Kuz, Mainz, Germany
27th February – Bastard Club, Osnabruck, Germany