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Listening

...And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead, Worlds Apart

This review is two weeks late. And I know that there could be many very believable reasons for this, but this is the truth: Typically, when reviewing a record, I’ll listen to it as I compose the review. It’s an obvious thing to do, really, but in the case of Worlds Apart, the more and more I listened to it, the harder it became to merely hear it.

Because this, the fourth album from …And You Will Know Us By The Trail of Dead is transporting, enveloping, an absolute lyrical and musical achievement, and not in a decade or more has an album had so many important things to say—and said them with such astounding clarity. A searing invective against apathy, political unconsciousness, and self-deception, the first half of Worlds Apart speaks to the disenfranchised, pleading for them to remember hope in the face of bald helplessness. They know how easy it is to cling to that world before Bush, before September 11, before Iraq, but they say, “That’s dead and gone / It’s just dead and gone,” and likewise instill the belief that better days could lie ahead: “And though the fun has past / Those mythic dreams would never last / Have no fear anymore / And if it makes you cry / To look ahead well dry your eyes / It can be done / Yes, it can be done.” (“Summer of ‘91”) That is, of course, if we make the right decisions.

During the album midpoint, “A Classic Arts Showcase,” its apex opens into a sprawling instrumental section, and the musical language explored thus far in the album radically transforms. A choir section is introduced, the band’s musical fingers magically spread, and new instrumentation arrives by the orchestra pit-ful. Here the song, about living for apathetic escapism (“I could write or I could read / Go next door and smoke some weed / As long as I don’t have to think / About who is running this mess”) has reached a crossroads on what to do: and Trail of Dead magnificently opens the door for our collective escapism—if only to show us what can be found in that world.

And so we twist and evolve down into the second half of the album, and Trail of Dead leads us along a fantastical journey of descriptions and sounds, through operatic epiphany and Eastern European instrumentals, into desire and visions and onstage dramatics, all of it finally culminating in “The Best.” And it’s here, in these final verses that Trail of Dead reveals to our blissed-out senses that this belief of well-being they’ve created—and that we’ve fostered—is purely manufactured, that this escape is as temporary as whatever distraction we’ve been brought here by: “This is one fine life / This is one fine wine / This is one fine wife / This is one fine lie / And things couldn’t be better / They are the best.” It may be a wonderful feeling, but it wouldn’t last.

As the proper album closer, “The Lost City of Refuge,” lazily wakes up with bleary eyes that become sharper as they realize a greater goal, the listener is presented with a greater sense of expectancy and self-assurance. Of hope.

We’re ready, we’re prepared to find out what happens next. And the sooner Trail of Dead records it, the sooner we’ll know it. I can’t wait.

biopic

Andrew Womack is a founding editor of The Morning News. He is always working on the next installment of the Albums of the Year series at TMN. More by Andrew Womack

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