What with artists aping and parodying one another’s styles, it seems like labels are all we have to differentiate musicians now. When I came to write about …And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead (who, by the way, are fun pranksters who made everyone believe that they were choirboys and that their name comes from an ancient Mayan chant), I came across the term ‘art rock’. What’s that? they plaster their album covers with Picassos and hold a masterclass in watercolours after each concert? But no: apparently, it’s music that attempts to emulate classical styles, with the emphasis on form rather than substance.. For this genre, we seemingly have to thank the Moody Blues, Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd, who experimented with structure and tonality.
The sole track that the Dead managed to get into the Festive Fifty, Mistakes And Regrets (FF 2000 #4), however, betrays little influence of this genre (to my ears at least). It’s a straight ahead rocker in the Sonic Youth manner, alternating breakneck chords with swashes of feedback blasted by the entire band and a vocalist who teeters on the edge of a scream with quiet passages that are still unsettling.
I think there is some conscious effort on our part to sound apocalyptic. One of our preoccupations is the idea of an apocalypse. It certainly is on my mind when I turn on the news and see what’s going on in the world. [Conrad Keeley]
The two main Texan members, Jason Reece and Conrad Keeley, met in Hawaii in the early 90s, and went through various band member changes before releasing Madonna, a celebratory collection of guitar anthems all with this enormous sound, on the Merge label in 1999 and opening concerts for labelmates Superchunk to promote it. And lo and behold, they are on tour as I speak.
...And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead, Peel Sessions
1. (live from Maida Vale 4, 2000-08-16)
Prince With A Thousand Enemies/Mistakes & Regrets/Clair/Mark David Chapman/Totally Natural/Fake Fake Eyes
2. (Maida Vale 4, 2002-02-05)
Innvocation/Another Morning Stoner/Baudelaire/Homage/Richter Scale Madness