Awright — this review arrives about two years too late, but hey, at least it’s in time to precede the release of Source Tags and Codes, the band’s Interscope debut out on Feb. 26.
Sporting the coolest long name since Seagull Screaming Kiss Her Kiss Her, … And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead could have been screaming in Japanese, and the music wouldn’t be any less overwhelming.
Aggressive, brooding, dischordant, textured — Trail of Dead would like you to think they’re a bunch of guys who have worn out multiple copies of Sonic Youth’s Daydream Nation.
But Madonna isn’t just a disc packed with two-minute wallops of fuzzy guitars. (Actually, they’re more like three- to seven-minute wallops.) There’s structure to the madness — tracks that ram and bleed into each other, strange effects that segue into dramatic beginnings and endings.
Trail of Dead could have just left well enough alone, copping out to two second pauses and fade outs. But no — Madonna is an epic, made to feel bigger than just a bunch of screaming vocals, thundering beats and buzzing guitars.
And while it would have been cool just to hear Trail of Dead terrorize a stereo system with its scorched earth aesthetic, the fact they put some thought into making Madonna feel larger than it is shows some real acumen.
And none of it feels forced. If anything, it’s surprising how well punk music fits well with the kind of ambition usually reserved for prog rock and concept albums.
Madonna certainly feels tighter than the quartet’s no-less aggressive self-titled debut. Plus, the band’s singer (the credits aren’t clear who that is — Conrad Keely or Kevin Allen) does one helluva job trying to wrench the Kurt Cobain torch for best screamer from Mukai Shutoku of Number Girl.
Madonna, the pop singer, ought to feel proud Trial of Dead recorded a namesake album as excellent as this one. Madonna, the album, leaves listeners like they just had the workout of their lives in a mosh pit from hell.
(What are the chances her next album will be called … And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead?)