December 23, 2006

Long Live Rock and Roll

Hello all!! How goes it friends? It certainly has been a while since there has been any kind of musical conversation on this lonely website. Well now that our computer has finally been given the gift of internet access, things will change rapidly around here. Here are my plans for the webpage for the new year:

1: Stay up to the moment with breaking acts, news, and other info regarding your favorite groups

2: Stop using blogger (though it has been quite good to me) and transfer all of my writing to the new website set for completion sometime in early 2007. It will be a site dedicated to alternative thinking about politics, sports, movies, and music. Collaborating with other people should be an interesting adventure that I plan on tackling full throttle.

2007 will hopefully be a banner year for music, which should give me plenty to write about. But there is still plenty to look forward to this year. Within the next few weeks, i will be posting the highly anticipated Best of 2006 list. A look at the best 20 or so albums that were released over the past year. Before we dive into that, here is a little peice I wrote about a favorite band of mine last month. Enjoy!! - DT

…And You Won’t Know Us by the Trail of Dead
Another Tragic Story of an Unappreciated Rock and Roll Band

It didn’t take me long to realize I had made a mistake. It happens every time. I buy a new album and expect my brain to grasp all the meaning and music from the first few listens. After the last track on ‘So Divided’, the greatly anticipated new release from the subversive alternative legends …And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead, I found myself sitting in front of my stereo in disgust. The earsplitting guitars, time-changing drumming, and heartfelt lyrics were replaced by tired pianos, saxophones, a Guided by Voices cover, and sampled drum beats. I felt like a child whose favorite toy was eaten by the family dog then given back abrasive and covered in saliva. I didn’t want it. More so, I hated it for being so different from the toy I once knew. Why did that brainless dog want to masticate such a remarkable toy?
In 2005, Trail of Dead released the epic ‘Worlds Apart’. It was meant to make a huge wave in the indie/alternative kiddie pool. If you own it you know that it has all the old fashioned Trail of Dead trademarks and then some. Worlds Apart combines Conrad Keely’s knack for writing profound words and hiding them ever so slightly behind the bands talented musicians, Kevin Allen and Jason Reece who, when their mighty powers combine, transform from regular everyday Joes into the magic that is the Trail of Dead. Sadly, it only sold about 50,000 copies. The story holds true for most Trail of Dead albums. Though it is considered their best album, the 2002 release ‘Source Tags and Codes’ ran into the same commercial failures that ‘Worlds Apart’ did. It did, however, have one single getting radio play, but it fizzled away too quickly for anyone to notice.
Luckily it’s not their album sales that are keeping them alive. The heavy sound that pushes through the speakers with such intensity is even more tremendous in concert. Their live performances are known for being out of control and typically end with broken instruments. Getting your band’s name out of Austin, Texas is easy to do when you trash your stage after every show like you’re Kurt Cobain.
Does this sound like the ideal making of a great rock band? It certainly does. Nevertheless, the band is still making (commercially) unsuccessful album after another, still touring in rinky-dink venues, playing for the same crowd that has seen them time and time again trying to support their favorite band. Where did it go wrong? It must have gone wrong somewhere right? Nothing has gone wrong. It’s just another disappointing story of a hard working band not getting the credit they deserve.
Putting that all into perspective is something I should have done long before I put the new album in. This drastic adjustment was bound to happen. Truthfully, I don’t know why it didn’t happen earlier. The worst part about it is Conrad spells it out for us in every song. All you have to do is listen to the lyrics. From the first track he speaks his point of view. “I had a band/had a song/I had a vision/where’s my vision gone”. Nearly each song on ‘To Divided’ talks about being misplaced, confused, or having no identity. It’s this earnestness and sincerity I thought the album was lacking. I just wasn’t looking close enough. The muscle may not be the same, but the passion still thrives in every song. Although it’s different, ‘To Departed’ is still the Trail of Dead.
It’s sad to think that this band has probably already past the high point in their career. At least they aren’t lying down and letting their commercial defeat take them out. As long as that one person is out there buying it, Trail of Dead will keep putting everything they’ve got into their music. That’s more than I can say about most bands out there.

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