Saturday, 23 May 2009

…And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead – 23 April 2009, Electric Ballroom

I’ve been having trouble getting ‘The Century Of Self’, the latest Trail Of Dead album, to stick. After a few attempts to force the overlong noise-pomp into my weary ears, I find it’s not something I need to go back to over and over again. This makes me sad, as time was I lurved Trail Of Dead. They was my faves, but I suppose it’s rare to still be loving a band six albums in. Times change.

The melancholy piano flourish that launched third album ‘Source Tags and Codes’ winds its languorous way from the stage to our heads. I’m clutching the crush barrier rail, feeling like an ambassador for indiepop in my bright green cardie amongst a sea of black. I feel a thrill of anticipation and actual excitement. It turns out that live, Trail Of Dead are still nosebleedingly good fun. The band are now Conrad, Jason, Kevin and three blokes. I don’t know who the blokes are, but they do a pretty good job of smashing out the songs. Exciting pop fact: Conrad is wearing a Pains Of Being Pure At Heart tee-shirt!

The new songs work well live, full of the pomp and fury of an unleashed Trail. ‘Far Pavillions’ is heavy, druggy psych-rock, ‘Isis Unveiled’ is rocket fuelled punk. There’s a clutch of olden songs; ‘Relative Ways’ (“It’s okay / I forgave / your mistakes…”), a ferocious, jolting ‘It Was There That I Saw You’, a rare outing for the sweetly yearning ‘Souce Tags and Codes’. The more recent ‘Will You Smile?’ (well it’s only from three albums back) is greeted like an old friend by the crowd and is bombastically, stompingly, glorious. ‘Caterwaul’ is thoroughly invigorating, and, as ever, it sees Jason going mentalz, throwing himself at the crowd and clambering onto the crush barrier to be adored (squishing me in the process). Having had a faceful of Reese t-shirt, I can confirm that it’s a very sweaty performance.
As the band ambles back for an encore, they japingly improvise their way around a ridiculous, made up on the spot, smoooth r’n’b song, Jason taking up the "Ooh baby" vocals much to our amusement. They're a right laugh, Trail Of Dead, you know. The encore is a three song stretch of old 'uns but good 'uns: ‘How Near How Far’ unfettered and triumphant, good old ‘Mistakes And Regrets’, its swirling, rumbling intro sending little thrills through the audience, and of course traditional set-closer ‘A Perfect Teenhood’. To finish, there's a minor bit of drum-kit destruction, kind of for old times sake (Conrad, surveying the mess, ‘This looks like Jason’s house the first time I visited’).

An unscheduled third encore happens when Jason decides he wants to ‘greet his public’ again. This involves the band lauching into a fast 'n' fiendish ‘Richterscale Madness’ whilst Jason creeps into the crowd to sinisterly intone the ‘kill, kill’ bit. Craning behind me to behold the mayhem emanating from Reese ground zero, my gaze is met by a sea of insanely gleeful faces. This is the Trail of Dead I remember; too clever for their own good and brilliant dumb fun.

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