And You Will Know Us By The Trail of Dead
"The responsibility of any artist is to entertain. If we happen to find truth through our entertainment then all the better."
Source Tags and Codes worked because it flailed with exigence and density, not because the group ever thought about the scale of the art they were making. the music was violent and almost pitiful because its weight was manifest. the messages were so condensed that if each song were taken individually then each would be equally absurd; maybe a couple of them like 'Monsoon' or 'Baudelaire' could stand for a while on their own, but they'd be supported chiefly by the proceeding and preceding empty air. so conscious was the album and so inspiring the ethic that to listen to a song here or there would be akin to divining stories from dust covers. it was overwhelming, complex, fragile, and disastrously close to imploding. in other words, this was art.
soon enough many declared the album as an indie rock signpost, one eventually eclipsing the band itself and their history. and i guess i can't fault the band too harshly for trying to recapture their namesake rather than being dragged down by a single record. but the means by which they essayed to do so completely left behind the process so crucial to both Source Tags and Codes and Madonna. the band try to revisit the enormity of both but instead only end up making an album so grandiose that hardly a single point is ever made. rather than playing music as a means of entertainment, the Austin-based quartet makes dull exegesis on their prior selves. if Source Tags and Codes was consciousness, Worlds Apart is a band so self-conscious that they're asleep at the wheel.
the sprawling album cover is a perfect picture of hubris. all species of empire are forced into a death match in a confined area, and while the physical size is impressive, the point is lost. the album title itself is obfuscated by the drama and the sprawling band title at the top barely decipherable among the noise and fracas. while Source Tags was genuinely epic, Worlds Apart just feigns it. the intro 'Ode to Isis' is a galumphing, discomforting opening salvo replete with a choir and the faint, cacophanous melding of battle cries. it's an uninteresting and pointless opening given the band's history. the title track is perhaps far more annoying mostly because it's so tame. in interviews Conrad Keeley said that the group chose the pieces with more scrutiny than before, layering each until they felt them satisfactory. yet each song feels overdressed and carved to near vapidity. "Look at those cunts on MTV/With their cars, and cribs, and rings and shit/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?" are just a sample of the entirely histrionic lyrics. funnily enough they upbraid popular culture and art all the while exhibiting a cleaner, more attractive sound. maybe it's ironic, but to a listener it's too close to hypocrisy.
songs like 'Caterwaul' and 'Let It Dive' come far too close to Oasis-cum-Verve Pipe radio boilerplates while others like 'All The While' and 'All White'--both of which see Keeley's attempts at vocal harmony fall disastrously flat--come far too close to radio ballads. they are nondescript and disinteresting and only 'Will You Smile For me Again' displays even an iota of the group's former concentrated self. and by the way, it's the former self that made them so great. i'm not going to lie and tell you that i don't want another Source Tags and Codes because, in all honesty, i do. i don't want Source Tags and Codes chord-for-chord and word-for-word, but i want them to at least admit that whatever this travesty they thrust upon their listenership was, it wasn't the art they were fully capable of. i want the art of their past, not the past itself. Worlds Apart claims to have the truth, which they may have found, but that's irrelevant if such truth isn't presented through the music.
Release date: January 25, 2005
Rating: 4.0 / 10
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