…AND YOU WILL KNOW US BY THE TRAIL OF DEAD – The Century of Self (2009)

...And You Will Know Us By The Trail of Dead - The Century of Self …And You Will Know Us By The Trail of Dead (hereafter referred to, colloquially, as Trail of Dead, for brevity’s sake) began their career by creating albums that channeled (and celebrated) the noisy, bombastic side of rock and roll (culminating with the release of 2002’s Source Tags and Codes, an album that was not only primed to explode, but, in fact, does – many, many times). After Source Tags and Codes, the band began to channel an altogether different side of rock and roll’s spirit: the practical side.

So while World’s Apart and So Divided (released in 2005 and 2006, respectively) were not primed to explode (and, in fact, did not), I still enjoyed them (even if the critics didn’t), just not holistically – see, I don’t think of Madonna or Source Tags and Codes in terms of songs, but I do for World’s Apart and So Divided. Seeing as how those albums are constructed on a song to song basis (instead of a moment to moment one), it’s hard not to.

Given this, it’d be difficult for Trail of Dead go to back the template of their earlier work, especially considering how high up they left the bar when they were last there. So instead, we get The Century of Self, an album that’s a bit of a compromise – just noisy enough to stand out, while pragmatic enough to fit in. Listening to it, I can discern individual songs, yes, but when the album is completed, all those impressions fade away.

Creating an album in this manner was certainly a gamble, but I believe it has paid off. The Century of Self is definitely the most satisfying Trail of Dead album since Source Tags and Codes, and there’s just enough physical distance between the two albums to avoid making direct comparisons between the two. I think part of the reason why the album feels the way it does is because of the changes the band made to their recording practices (frontman Conrad Keely remarked to Billboard that the band abandoned the meticulous studio recording process used on the last two albums, opting instead to track everything live). But to be honest, it’s not really worth rationalizing. The Century of Self is proof that, musically speaking, you can have your cake, and eat it, too.


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