Thursday, April 4, 2002

Review - Source Tags and Codes

Artist: . . . Trail of Dead

Posted on Thu, Apr 4, 2002 at 4:00 AM

Source Tags and Codes
Label: Interscope
Media: CD
Format: Album
WorkNameSort: Source Tags and Codes

An appetite for destruction makes great gossip, but you have to back it up. The lugubriously named . . . And You Will Know Us By the Trail of Dead has established one of the most formidable live reps around on little more than its equipment- and self-abusive sets. The Austin, Texas, quartet follows a healthy bloodline of Lone Star mayhem--the Dicks, Scratch Acid, the Butthole Surfers--but unlike those underground dwellers, it has turned its temper tantrums into golden copy in the United States and Europe.

But the Trail of Dead has never transformed its live bravado into anything remotely as fiery on record. Its 1998 self-titled debut and 1999's "Madonna" provided the right explosives for concert blasts, but they rang dud on disc. Interscope took a big gamble handing these guys a recording budget, but it paid off: "Source Tags and Codes'" multiple layers and dense ripples seethe with an unstable volatility that finally captures the band's capriciousness, as well as its sardonic streak. Mock prog posturing ("Baudelaire" marries a King Crimson staccato rhythm to Mars' no-wave guitar bludgeoning) segues into Unwound noise theatrics ("Homage") that bleed into baroque guitar melodies ("How Near, How Far") that would be downright pretty if they weren't so mordantly presented. The last thing this band wants to be is adored.

And therein lies the problem with "Source Tags:" There's not one potential single here. The heaviness is too arty for metal, the songwriting too inchoate for pop, and the members themselves too flippant to be pinups. It's going to be a short major-label ride for these Dead boys--but it's going to be hilarious to watch.

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