"And You Will Know Us" by the Trail of Dead has a de facto coolness with teenagers into the whole indie rock scene, thanks to their ambitious hard rock and ultra-neat name. But the band's fifth disc, "So Divided," doesn't provide anything especially cool, or for that matter, anything all that satisfying either.
When we last left our indie heroes on 2005's "Worlds Apart", they were expanding to some interesting horizons: The album brushed with epic rock ("Will You Smile Again?"), electronica ("The Lost City of Refuge"), and some good old nostalgic punk rock ("The Summer of '91"). On "So Divided", they take the epic rock they previously dabbled with and expand it into an entire album, but make one fatal flaw: They fail to realize there's a difference between an epic song and simply giving a song an epic length.
The result is a frequently dull album where nearly every song seems about a minute too long. The band gets all the rocking out done in the opening track, "Stand In Silence," a hard-driven, simple blast of punk fun, but after that it's all mellow melodies, slow pianos, and lots of other things that make it hard to stay awake. Tracks like "Life," a sluggish track filled with as many boring moments as its subject matter, "Gold Heart Mountain Top Queen Directory," an underdeveloped Guided by Voices cover that is pure filler, and the beyond tiresome "Witch's Web," among others, sound like songs that would be the weakest link on older, superior Trail of Dead albums. Also, out of these 11 songs, two are throwaway skits, one is a cover, and one is a re-recording of an old Trail of Dead song.
Which is not to say So Divided is totally without merit. "Stand In Silence" does a good job of providing the hard rock the rest of these tracks are unfortunately deprived of. The quiet, percussion-based "Wasted State of Mind" has a sing-along quality catchy enough to cover up how anticlimactic it really is, "Naked Sun" has the band showing off their Texas heritage with a rough, Southern-style sound, and the title track and finale, "Sunken Dreams," are among the few songs that actually succeed in actually being epics, to great results. The instrumentation, of pianos, muted guitars, and quiet drums, is quite bland, which is somewhat of a blessing in disguise because it at least gives singer Conrad Keely a chance to really show off.
"So Divided" has several moments that really stand out, but overall the band just sounds confused, like they themselves are aware that what they're doing isn't what their fans really want to hear. It's understandable what their intentions were here. Let's just hope the band learns a lesson and actually delivers next time around.
DOWNLOAD THESE: "Stand In Silence," "So Divided"
Jason Silverstein is a sophomore at Williamsville North High School.