Band: ...And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead
Date: May 24, 2013
Venue: Coniston Lane, Brisbane, QLD
Bands playing albums in their entirety has worn quite thin with me, I have to tell you. I believe it takes away the element of surprise. "Will they play this or will they play that". Yes there's such as thing as setlist.fm, however there is another thing called self control and I've always been one of those guys who steers clear of set lists prior to a gig.
In ...And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead's case my scepticism is even more so. Playing their seminal opus, Source Tags and Codes appeared to be an odd call. For one, their latest outing, Lost Songs, slew and in a big way. Second of all, I felt that such events appeared to be a slap in the face to the likes of former members, Kevin Allen, and Neil Busch. The former, in particular as he was such an integral force of the band for a lot of years. That's certainly not saying Neil Busch wasn't. For the record, 'Monsoon' and 'Mark David Chapman' are amongst my favourite ... ToD songs; both of which Busch wrote and performed vocals. Busch's departure seemed a little more clear cut than Allen's (the former leaving due to a string of personal issues). Allen's departure still appears to be clouded in uncertainty.
In any case the latest incarnation of the Deads seems to be on the upward tilt. Conrad Keely and Jason Reece have always been the one-two punch in which make Austin's finest band tick. And with that last statement I guess I'm throwing my eggs into one basket; yes, this is probably my favourite band. That's why the nagging feeling of apprehension is all the more strange.
However, my initial reluctance is put to bed after the band (now consisting of Autry Fulbright II on bass and Jamie Miller drums, guitar) come out to the Source Tags... piano interlude and kick into 'It Was There That I Saw You', which from the very first strike of the chord from Keely, sounds tone perfect.
The stripped back nature of the band's last two outings, Lost Songs and Tao of the Dead certainly filters through to songs from Sources Tags... 'Heart In The Hand of the Matter' and 'Relative Ways' seem to swap the arty scapes for feedback and fuzz. The same feedback and fuzz which make new tracks such as 'Catatonic' sound so fucking good. It's an interesting juxtaposition with these songs. I was lucky enough to see them in the heart of Source Tags and Codes era back in 2002 so to see the songs performed with more balls and less grandeur is an interesting proposition.
After the album is played from front to back, the band takes a break for 10 minutes then returns to the stage, leaning into 'Catatonic'; personally, my favourite song of last year. Jason Reece has always been capable of penning a gem and this is up there with the best he's done, rendering a snapshot of the modern age and coupling such polemic themes with power chords that would make Fugazi proud.
I was a bit bummed that they didn't play more from Lost Songs; 'Heart of Wires' and 'Awestruck' would've fit the mood perfectly. But instead we were treated with oldies such as "love song", 'Claire De Lune' from Madonna and the anthemic 'Caterwaul' from the severely underrated Worlds Apart.
In the end it doesn't really matter what ..And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead play. What you see is what you get. Up front, intricate riffs and brawn chords coupled with heavy pounding and weaving bass lines. Keely's a lyrical genius in my books; always has been. His partnership with Reece is undoubtedly spell-binding. The latter could probably fall in the genius category himself, too. If only he penned a few more songs, though (solo album, perhaps Jase?) I'm sure other Deads fans yearn for such a thing.
A night that was originally met with wariness, I walked away pleasantly surprised. Almost amazed in fact (and I detest using such superlatives). That's what your favourite bands should do to you, though. After all, that's what make them your favourite band.
By Simon K.