Worlds Apart:...And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead
Date Released: January 25, 2005
- Ode to Isis
- Will You Smile Again?
- Worlds Apart
- The Summer of '91
- The Rest Will Follow
- A Classic Arts Showcase
- Let It Dive
- To Russia My Homeland
- All White
- The Best
- The Lost City of Refuge
This may be the hardest review I have had to write thus far. I guess the first thing to say is Worlds Apart is no Source Tags & Codes, but how could it be? But I am also too big of a fan of the black-clad Austin boys to just dismiss them as having peeked and take my poster of the wall. I want to be as objective as possible and not even relate it to Source Tags, but I just can’t. While Source Tags was raw and brash, Worlds Apart is more polished and produced, but don’t get turned off just yet. They are still as ambitious as ever and composing extremely over the top progressive songs that rock as hard as they do soothe. The collection of songs 4, 5, and 6 are the most accessible the band has ever been, opening them to a much wider audience… But they are also good enough not to run off their existing indie fans. Also, they have not toned down live yet either even if their songs have: I saw them destroy an entire stage at CMJ. So in conclusion, Worlds Apart is no Source Tags & Codes… no shit right? What I'm trying to say is don’t sell it short and just give up on the band either.
Ode to Isis will turn a lot of people off right at the outset, but the band has been doing big intros since Madonna and why Invocation was left off Source Tags & Codes probably goes to the fact that there were already enough tracks on the pan-Atlantic releases to merit a full album without that, Life is Elsewhere, or Blood Rites. Will You Smile Again? is the first proper track, a song about Brian Wilson's reemergence and one that has the all the hallmark dynamics of a typical Dead song: Quiets to make the louds louder, lyrical bluntness to tie it all together. Its very loud intro has served as the opening number on the Worlds Apart tour, but the thump-thump-thump of the bass drum is given a bit more life live, something Conrad Keely is forced to mask on record with more vocal melody than he's ever used before. The title-track is a sometimes-clever, mostly-not dancehall waltz. The children that laugh in the background liven things up, but the half minute of birds chirping at the end takes away from it in the run up to the wishy-washy ode to Seattle grunge, The Summer of '91. Second single The Rest Will Follow is a standout and unquestionably the most accessible cut here, a triumph for percussion and one of the most brilliant songs the band has ever put to tape. With lineup changes heading in to the recordings (bassist Neil Busch was out but is present on the album (Danny Wood replaced him) and auxiliary drummer Danny Schroeder also joined Jason Reece at live shows as a second percussionist), the live performances that were produced on the other side clearly made this the most emphatic statement of their new material. Caterwaul is hard to ignore even in the wake of the most triumphant song of the album, a genuine rock tour de force that allows Reece to use his less melodic vox in a way we'd only previously seen on All St.'s Day.
But whereas the first half of the album varies in tempo and keeps the interest of the listener for better or worse, the second half seems to get a bit lost in trying to exploit excess piano-playing here or Big Rock Moments there. A Classic Arts Showcase loses itself with a climax that takes too long thanks to an orchestral interlude, diminishing an otherwise emotionally-charged song about how they really don't care about the hype being written about them (perhaps they never suspected what kind of public hounding they'd get for Worlds Apart...). Let It Dive is a droning number that, at 4:45, takes far too long to end and is probably one of the weakest tracks on here. The inevitable instrumental To Russia My Homeland would be better suited to the opulent courts of Alexander III in St. Petersburg circa 1886, mysteriously sounding like It's a Beautiful Day's White Bird in the process. All White could've been a great tune but it feels unfinished at under two minutes... And still they manage to add orchestral flourishes. The Best is, much like Will You Smile Again?, a deceptive track that starts out rocking as hard as any other song on the album before launching into a tambourine-rattling chorus. Instead of relying on the bass drum, though, acoustic guitars strum mischievously behind Keely's singing. It is a glorious track that finishes on a low note: After the overpowering melancholy of the climax, a wailing woman and a reprise of Worlds Apart brings the track to an unceremonious conclusion. Luckily, ...Trail of Dead have always thought more about the album, and this set-up allows mellow closer The Lost City of Refuge to saunter in on an electronic drum track that hints at possible future hijinx.
A lot of talk has centered around the bombast and the pretension of the album, but what's ironic is that ...Trail of Dead have always meant every word they sang (or screamed) and every note they played. This is in stark contrast to their spiritual forefathers Smashing Pumpkins, who in an abstract sense were completely the opposite, building a rock empire on what they were perceived to be (Sonic Youth no longer applies as a reference point starting with this album). It's surprising not many people have acknowledged the Big Picture connection: On an abstract level, ...Trail of Dead have thus far mimicked the Pumpkins' career almost identically. Their self-titled debut and Madonna hark at their early form but point the way to bigger and better things, much as Gish did for the Pumpkins. With Source Tags & Codes, ...Trail of Dead hit their critical zenith with a major label and probably would've garnered more accolades for 2002's best rock album if it weren't for Interpol; likewise, the Pumpkins soared on Virgin with Siamese Dream and if not for In Utero would have been recognized as the true triumph of 1993. With nothing left to prove and nowhere to go but around, Worlds Apart and Mellon Collie & the Infinite Sadness polarized the public and blew away all comers with sheer sound. We all know what happened with the Pumpkins and Adore, but it's hard to think ...Trail of Dead would ever consider a folk-based electronic record. Still, if The Lost City of Refuge is any indication, and if history does indeed repeat itself... Well, we'll leave it to the band and instead just revel in the most unapologetically rock album of the year. - PMasterson /Mpardaiolo