Disorienting and structurally sound

I like this album, but I’m having a hard time writing about it.

There are many levels on which Worlds Apart is disorienting, even for an … And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead album.

It’s anamolous compared to the band’s previous work. The blistering punk rock, screaming vocals and flying expletives have given way to a polished, epic sound.

At first, it’s something of a let-down not to hear Conrad Keely or Jason Reese tear their vocal cords out, but then the album makes up for that loss in numerous weird ways that it’s easy to forgive.

The opening “Overture” features a crowd chanting the names of Egyptian gods before a woman’s scream begins the album proper. A group of children cheer at the end of “Will You Smile Again”, to which Conrad Keely replies, “Hey, fuck you, man.” And the children giggle.

And those are the moments between songs.

“Will You Smile Again” starts off loud, then crashes to a near-halt. Over the course of 7-minutes, the song slowly builds up again with an incessant beat, finishing as loudly as it started.

“Summer of ’91” begins as a piano ballad, but when the rest of the band crashes in, the song heads to a foregone loud conclusion. Midway through “Classic Arts Showcase”, a chorus of female soul singers provide the foundation for an odd mix of strings, guitars and drums.

Of course, … Trail of Dead have always written songs that feel large for their size, but this time, the album is threaded with a sense of narrative.

Songs segue into each other, often blurring the distinction between tracks. “Summer of ’91” ends on a hanging note, which “And the Rest Will Follow” picks up afterward. “Let It Dive” begins right before “Classic Arts Showcase” fades out.

Then there are the moments that just plain, “What the fuck?”

Like the instrumental “To Russia My Homeland”, which is reminiscent of the French accordion player that served as an interlude on Source Code and Tags. Or the following “All White”, which sounds like Elton John. No, really.

And at the end of “The Best”, a woman wails a plea, “Don’t go!”, while a distant chorus sings portions of “And the Rest Will Follow”.

I’m not even going to bother explicating the lyrics.

Worlds Apart may sound like … Trail of Dead’s cleanest album on the surface, but there’s a sense of ambition and focus that makes all the strange elements feel structurally sound.

It’s a disorienting album that feels incredibly grounded and knows where the fuck it’s going.

This instance is truly an example where writing about music is like dancing about architecture.