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Record Review: And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead

This story was published February 10, 2005 in The Cavalier Daily, U.Va.’s student newspaper.

It’s not often that I feel the need to call things beautiful. Beaches, babies and beauty queens don’t do much for me, but …And You Will Know Us By the Trail of Dead’s new album, “Worlds Apart,” is in fact, beautiful. I love every inch of it, from the Parental Advisory sticker to the majestic guitar work and grand cello sections.

The album opens with a piano and string arrangement that builds to the unthinkable climax of a woman screaming. The song is called “Ode to Isis,” and the sense of foreboding it creates seeps through the rest of the album.

The second track has maracas, tambourines and a driving beat that extends the anticipation created in the intro. “Will You Smile Again” then sinks gracefully into the sharp street-corner song of a jazz trumpet. Before I could get my feet back under me, the drums returned, accompanied by male vocals similar to Oasis’ Liam Gallagher’s.

The next song makes me wonder if The Strokes, The Rolling Stones and The Ramones each put a band member into a blender and pressed “puree.” It has jangly guitars, simple drums, a multi-vocal chorus and a highly politicized list of lyrics, including the following: “Look at these c***s on MTV/with their cars and cribs and rings and s**t/is that what being a celebrity means/Look boys and girls, here’s BBC/see corpses, rapes and amputees/what do you think now of the American Dream?”

The following track begins with sleepy piano and boring vocal patterns, but it builds beautifully into a song with an orchestral climax that rivals anything U2 ever wrote. The lyrics are from someone who is confused but optimistic, saying, “And though it makes no sense/know there are no accidents.”

The next track is also solid. The catchy chorus clambered into my brain and stayed there, rattling around until I hit the repeat button.

The following song, “Caterwaul,” could be mistaken for a Beatsteaks song, or just something from the late ’90s. Nevertheless, it’s the kind of song that needs to be made into a music video. I envision myself driving home after an argument with my (currently nonexistent) boyfriend, making that crucial transition from sad to pissed-off. I’d be pounding out the backbeat on the steering wheel and singing really loud. Trust me, it’d be cool.

One of my favorite tracks, “A Classical Arts Showcase,” sounds like early Jets to Brazil. It moves into a luxurious string piece with female vocals, but despite the music’s smoothness and depth, the memories of the woman screaming in the first track leave me feeling nervous.

“To Russia My Homeland” beautifully shows off the band’s real musical ability. Ticking snare drums and swaying violins give breadth to the CD’s scope and breathe life into the album.

“The Best” reminds me of Ugly Organ-era Cursive in its pounding tempo and bare bones style, and the opera singer in the background makes me think of Damien Rice’s “Eskimo.”

Unfortunately, my earlier fears were confirmed: the last 15 seconds of “The Best” swept away my pretty thoughts as the same woman began screaming, begging an unknown torturer to stop. I am not made of cotton candy, but neither am I made of iron; it took me four tries to finish the track.

Even with the scary screaming, I adore every second of this album. It shows the band’s talent at fusing chaotic thrash-rock and pretty orchestral backing without smearing the styles together like goopy finger paint. I’d recommend this to people who like melody in their rock, people who like rock in their melody and people who can appreciate beauty when they hear it.

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