…AND YOU WILL KNOW US BY THE TRAIL OF DEAD | LIVE REVIEW
Clwb Ifor Bach, Cardiff
Mon 22 Apr
words NOEL GARDNER photo CLARE PHILLIPS
It isn’t quite that you “had to be there,” as they say, but to appreciate the fervour that greeted …And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead at this show, you at least have to extract yourself from your pit of buzzbands and thrice-weekly turnovers of hyped hotness. If you occupy such a pit, that is. A long time ago, this Texan overload-rock ensemble received comparable attention – in the UK, their second album Madonna caused their star to blow up in summer 2000. Their habit of trashing their equipment scuppered a planned Cardiff show later that year (hype band or no, they couldn’t afford to replace it); they’ve played here once before in 2005, but as support to Audioslave, which was likely not their ideal audience.
The band have maintained a healthy release schedule since then, with recent eighth album Lost Songs picking up good reviews, but with very few exceptions the audience at Clwb Ifor – a smaller venue than the one originally booked, and happily a non-awful one too – are old enough to have been fans back when they were riding a crest. Their support acts are less liable to induce nostalgia, although Atlantan punk trio The Coathangers succeeded in reminding me why I enjoyed their 2009 album Scramble so much. Their surface-level belligerence can’t mask their evident good humour; their music embraces riot grrrl, garage punk and stolen Gang Of Four riffs, before returning it in a manner far more original than this implies. Bristol’s Turbowolf inspire increased energy in the crowd, despite playing half-baked banter-bus metal which seems to wrongly assume that (a) the Melvins don’t take their music seriously and (b) this is their greatest asset.
Trail Of Dead now feature only two original members, Conrad Keely and Jason Reece; both have a fair few years on the newer arrivals, shall we say, but over a 75-minute set largely made up of crowdpleasers, all involved give it some welly. Whether dabbling in slightly addled psych-rock, thrashy punk or the sort of ear-bleeding freakouts associated with alt-rock royalty like Sonic Youth, the quartet always temper their bludgeon with skill, and vice versa. Three songs from 2002’s popular Source Tags And Codes are played early on: It Was There That I Saw You, How Near How Far and the plaintive Another Morning Stoner. Selections from more recent efforts are judiciously chosen: only Catatonic, an up-tempo political broadside, represents Lost Songs.
As with most bands of this size and this vintage, though, there’s near-consensus about what numbers are Trail Of Dead’s big guns. A Perfect Teenhood, the closest the group get to hardcore punk and a cue for gear-wreckage back when (they don’t do that these days), is discharged some way before the end. Which feels almost risky, until the end actually arrives – Madonna’s Mistakes And Regrets and, following a pre-encore break of about 45 seconds, Richter Scale Madness off their lesser-spotted debut album. Efforts to take the song title at its word lead to two dozen or so audience members thronging the stage, a beaming band only identifiable in there by the guitars round their necks.