Looking Beyond the Trail of Dead

I’ve fallen in love, musically, with … And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead. I resisted for awhile, but they won. I resisted liking this band because of their name. I am that petty.

I used to think the best band names had one or more basic characteristics:

  • Descriptive: I could tell something about the band just by looking at them. Ultramagnetic MC’s was obviously a hip hop group with a healthy dose of strangeness. Moon Duo has 2 members (3, actually) and is a little spacy or psychedelic. The Dead Kennedys are harsh and political.
  • Entertaining: Some sort of basic silliness like Be Your Own Pet or Grandaddy.
  • Not too crazy: Soul Coughing? Really? Yeah Yeah Yeahs? How many Yeahs do you need?

Some names turn me off almost immediately. Things like:

  • Corporate: One Direction?
  • Something too silly: A$AP Rocky. Mouse on Mars.
  • Something too intricate: Oneohtrix Point Never
  • Personal names: Fiona Apple, Janelle Monáe, Major Lazer (he couldn’t get promoted, apparently)

I actually have albums by 4 out of 7 of the above-mentioned, so I’m either hypocritical or flexible.

When I first heard about Trail of Dead, I thought they must be some kind of doom metal group. Sure, I could have read just a few lines more and discovered that wasn’t true, but when you’re eyes have already started rolling, what can you do? Were they a band commemorating a historic Native American tragic displacement? Were they just about slasher movies? I didn’t investigate, I just forgot about them.

Recently, I found myself listening to a review of the latest Fiona Apple album with a name that is either deserving of eye-rolling, or a short poem. It grabbed me before the album name could push me away. If I can like an album with a paragraph-length name, why not bands with sentence-length names?

... and You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead, Lost Songs

… and You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead, Lost Songs

With my eyes opened to new things, I listened to Trail of Dead’s latest album, Lost Songs. It’s definitely punky, post-hardcore even (whatever that means). I found it perfectly suited for listening to on long walks through the snow. The music isn’t cold, but it is a little distant. The energy is high, without being exultant or exhausting. Listening less closely, it’s a wall of varying energy interspersed by occasional pools of calm. Listening closely, there are intricate details hidden just behind the wall of guitars. Rhythmically, it’s like wind sprints, running really hard and then stopping for quick breaths before the next intense sprint. Just the way the words “pinhole camera” fit rhythmically into the same-named song, is smooth feat of rhythmic skill.

Before getting too caught up in Lost Songs, I stumbled electronically on to an even better album of theirs, Source Tags & Codes. I am in love.

Am I wrong?