Finally! After a string of overblown, and mostly non-rocking, rock operas and concept albums, Trail Of Dead deliver the goods, Source Tags & Codes -style, with Lost Songs. As many fans of rock 'n' roll surely recall, 2002's Source Tags & Codes was an unequivocal masterpiece of prog-like grandiosity and face-melting, drum-kit-smashing, banned-in-DC hardcore intensity. Things pretty much went downhill from there, with the records that followed offering only a taste or two of the Trail of Dead of olden days, burying their memory in a grave of synthesizers and string arrangements. After Worlds Apart I had all but written them off completely. I would check in with each new release, mostly just to see how bad it sucked, and then cry myself to sleep while cradling a worn copy of Source Tags & Codes in my arms. I am happy to report that those sad times are over.
The first track on Lost Songs, “Open Doors”, kicks things off with an ominous synth-groove intro that, fortunately, isn't any indication of what the rest of the album is like. Just about the time I was thinking “oh no...not again” the guitars came in. By 0:54 it's a full-on ass-kicker. “Up To Infinity” has an early Sonic Youth vibe reminiscent of the first two Trail Of Dead records, and “Opera Obscura” is just punishing and epic beyond description...it will make you break things in your house. Lost Songs ratchets up the fury incrementally until it hits the title track five songs in, which is sort of oddly mellow and U2-ish. Seems like that might be a bad thing, but Trail Of Dead pull it off by keeping things concise, in your face, and rocking.
Drummer/Renaissance Man Jason Reece's tunes were always a highlight of older Trail Of Dead releases, with songs like “Days Of Being Wild” and “Caterwaul” bringing a raw rage and punk rock shout-along element to the band that stood in contrast to Conrad Keely's more poetic and theatrical tendencies. Lost Songs brings us a couple of raging Reece jams with “A Place To Rest” and “Catatonic”. Again, you WILL break things.
And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead have certainly had a strange career arc, from stage-trashing Austin punks, to Rolling Stone darlings, to cult prog-punk weirdos, but I've always gotten the impression they were following their own creative urges in an honest way, even if the result wasn't something I wanted to listen to. They quietly went about making records, touring, and doing things on their own terms while many of their peers had long since burned out. You have to admire their persistence, and it seems that all that experimenting has only refined and refueled their creative flame. Lost Songs will make you happy. Do it.