...And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead - "Summer Of All Dead Souls" (Tao of the Dead)
After the usual thunder and bluster that comes standard with the Trail of Dead brand, the echo that keeps coming back on Tao of the Dead is mid-’90s Oasis, albeit with a lot more swirling distortion. (I mean that without the slightest disdain.) Which is a sign, basically, that this band’s reliance on conceptual holism — two-thirds of the album is an 11-part song tuned in D, the last third a five-song suite in F — its insistence on eliding the customary pause between discrete songs and indeed on rejecting discrete songs in the first place, fails to conceal its totally legit rock-and-roll sensibilities.
So then what to make of the conceptual holism and all the associated proggy junk? Is it an affectation, or a brave defense of the album format? Just because you can write exhilaratingly direct rock numbers — here start with "Summer of All Dead Souls," "Weight of the Sun or the Post-Modern Prometheus," and the beginning and end of the 17-minute "Strange News From Another Planet" — are you obligated to play only those? Do you abstain from highfalutin ornamentation for the reasonable fear that it’ll be lost on lots of listeners, or do you forge ahead and make an album of noodly variations on a single galvanic stoner anthem because it’s what you feel like doing?
Trail of Dead, seven albums in and apparently pretty much bankrolling their own way at this point, bear toward the latter here. Good for them, of course. Whether it’s good for you depends on your thoughts on the prospect of an album that requires the same kind of discipline to really listen to as it took to make. Each fleeting iteration of the galvanic stoner anthem in question is impeccable for what it is, but that doesn’t keep my mind from wandering during the connective tissue. Tao of the Dead makes me, by turns, want to improve my attention span and want to listen to something else. I suspect it’s a fantastic accomplishment in a very real sense, but I’ve yet to set enough time aside to find out for sure.
By Daniel Levin Becker
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