I'm currently writing a review of Trail of Dead's new record, which is a hit and miss affair, and it got me thinking. Between 1999-2003 they were on top of their game, releasing two albums and one EP of premium quality. Since then they have faltered, although Worlds Apart from 2005 is an underappreciated record, it just happened to be not as good as Source Tags and Codes, while So Divided from 2006 is a flawed and ostentatious record.
So I have decided to compile an annotated mixtape of sorts.
01 - Invocation (Source Tags and Codes, Interscope 2002)
As this is Trail of Dead, we have to start with an instrumental and this haunting piano motif is the best.
02 - Richter Scale Madness (...And You Will Know Us By The Trail of Dead, Trance Syndicate 1998)
Still a live favourite, its blend crashing drums, angular guitars and high octane vocals make this an essential cut from their debut.
03 - Mistakes & Regrets (Madonna, Merge 1999)
For many this was their introduction to the band. I still remember seeing the video on M2 (the precursor to MTV2, before it went all commercial maaan) and being intrigued by their mixture of Eastern mythology and the psychedelic visuals. Musically they had come a long way from their debut, with a rich and organic sound that was heavily textured. The interplay between the guitars, the strident bass and trademark tribal drumming are perfect and Conrad Keely's vocals, at once hushed and then a yelp of anguish, have rarely been bettered. And the lyrics are great too.
04 - Another Morning Stoner (Madonna, Merge 1999)
The video, above, was shot while they were in London which is only one of the plethora of reasons which make this song amazing. Again trademark heavy tom work, and the minor key guitar lines which wend their way around you, entwining you in the song before reaching the heights with its soaring string finale.
05 - Relative Ways (Source Tags and Codes, Interscope 2002)
If you could distil Trail of Dead into one song it would be this or "Mistakes and Regrets". The tension it creates is incredibly powerful.
06 - It Was There That I Saw You (Source Tags and Codes, Interscope 2002)
Seguing from opener "Invocation", this song provides Source Tags and Codes with its initial headlong rush, frenetic and exciting.
07 - Will You Smile Again? (Worlds Apart, Interscope 2005)
The best song on the album by a stretch. It's epic without inflating itself, unlike the rest of the album, its pummeling 5/4 riff and percussion cover up the strangely flat vocal performance.
08 - Intelligence (The Secret of Elena's Tomb, Interscope 2003)
Not strictly a Trail of Dead song, as it was co-written by Tyler Jacobsen of Jason Reece's other band A Roman Scandal, it takes their emotional post-hardcore and melds it perfectly with glitchy, beat heavy electronica. A great song and a really unexpected pleasure.
09 - Totally Natural (Madonna, Merge 1999)
10 - Blight Takes All (Madonna, Merge 1999)
I love the slowly descending piano motif, beautifully offset against the melodic guitar lines. It also has a brilliant opening line..."Just another Poland pose, with this new haircut, oh what, am I to do?"
11 - Caterwaul (Worlds Apart, Interscope 2005)
Probably the most straight up riffing on this playlist.
12 - Mark David Chapman (Madonna, Merge 1999)
If it weren't for "Mistakes and Regrets" this would be the key song on Madonna, its eloquent mix of harmonics and Sonic Youth style guitars builds into a pounding crescendo.
13 - Crowning of a Heart (The Secret of Elena's Tomb, Interscope 2003)
The standout track on this EP, its soft-focus, languid verses slowly drawing you in before the mid-section's simple guitar motif that wrenches all emotion from you.
14 - How Near How Far (Source Tags and Codes, Interscope 2002)
Just a beautiful song.
15 - Source Tags and Codes (Source Tags and Codes, Interscope 2002)
This song is the summation of everything the band were striving for at this point, but is like a boozy barroom version of the song. Check out the way "Relative Ways" segues into "After The Laughter" and then this track. Great sequencing.
16 - The Summer of '91 (Worlds Apart, Interscope 2005)
I sometimes think that Worlds Apart has been unfairly treated, and this simple piano ballad is a great mixtape closer.
Check out the playlist at: http://open.spotify.com/user/sexmusic/playlist/52Bm4XhRpCiM3N4ATKrqQ7
They are on tour to support their new record in April. These are the dates (taken from the official website)
04.14 -- Portsmouth, England -- Wedge Rooms
04.15 -- Nottingham, England -- Rescue Rooms
04.16 -- Manchester, England -- Academy 3
04.17 -- Glasgow, Scotland -- Oran Mor
04.19 -- Newcastle, England -- Academy
04.20 -- Birmingham, England -- Academy
04.22 -- Bristol, England -- Thekla
04.23 -- London, England -- Electric Ballroom