…And You Will Know Us By the Trail of Dead, Tao of the Dead

Kevin O'Donnell

By Kevin O'Donnell

on 05.18.11 in Reviews

Tao of the Dead

...And You Will Know Us By the Trail of Dead

Formed in the waning days of grunge, …And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead never quite managed to transform early buzz into big commercial fortune. They remained on the fringes of the White Stripes/Strokes/Yeah Yeah Yeahs-helmed rock revival of the early '00s, and watched a potentially lucrative deal with major label Interscope fizzle out in 2007. All the while, founding members Conrad Keely and Jason Reece cycled through a seemingly endless number of drummers and bassists.

A full-blown, needle-in-the-red rock record

Nearly two decades into their career, the Austin, Texas, art-rockers have nothing left to lose. They've responded with the boldest album of their career: a sprawling concept record that's broken into two segments, Part 1: The Tao of the Dead and Part 2: Strange News from Another Planet. Right from the onset, Tao is a full-blown, needle-in-the-red rock record with lead-off track "Pure Cosplay" indicting mild-mannered indie-rock bands who've achieved more success than them: "Please don't bore me to death with your vampire weekend — yeah, fuck that," Keely snarls over a monster beat and stoner-rock scuzz.

At nearly an hour long, Trail of Dead don't maintain the breakneck momentum — how could they? But even the psychedelic, atmospheric moments — fast-forward seven minutes into Part 2 — lock into such tight, pristine rhythmic grooves that even obsessive beat-masters like Neu! and Can would be proud.