A few years ago, an episode of The Shield showed corrupt detective Vic Mackey at a crossroads: his sleazy ways are catching up with him and the opportunity to catch a sadistic pyromaniac is at his grasp, but he can’t as he needs to follow procedure. He manages to weasel his way out and catch the perp and an accomplice.
Instead of dealing some brutal street justice, he leads the federal authorities to them, anonymously. He then walks on a lonely street at night, a steady beat being his only company. He snarls “I’m a cop” to a patrol car that stops and then the background music explodes. That’s how I first heard …And you will know us by the trail of dead. The song was ‘Will you smile again?’. Perfect fit.
A quick catch up with the band’s back catalogue made me a fan. Just like Detective Mackey‘s quandary between an approach”by the book” or a “scratch my back…” tactic, the sounds of this band seemed to clash, mixing punk, jazz, prog and art rock, creating an explosion that moves forward, razing everything on sight.
Lost Songs finds the band in a position where they could just phone it in. Instead, they spin this web made up from two chemically unstable elements: the ferocity of punk & the expansiveness of prog rock. Then they add some other stuff, never becoming too insular, always leaving you with a satisfied smile.
‘Open doors’ has a gorgeous electronic beginning before rightfully exploding in your face, never apologising for being a bombastic track, never letting you recover. The instrumental parts are fierce and tight; this river has no meanders in its course. “Brutality” is apparently this band’s choice of finishing move while fighting, achieved by either sheer speed (‘Up to infinity’) or by continuously building up layer upon layer of carefully planned riffs (‘Heart of wires’ – which namedrops México!).
Which doesn’t mean that …And you will know us by the trail of dead has gone heavy on us. Not at all. They conserve those moments of tranquillity and spacey experimentation, where you can float for a few moments before tumble crashing down to Earth, arms wildly flinging around. The utterly beautiful calm in ‘Pinhole Camera’ is possibly the best piece of evidence, a prime example of how this band manages to be engaging in those slower moments while still kicking you in the (aural) shins when they decide it’s time to do some cardio again.
Now, if the song streaming up there doesn’t entice your attention, I’ve got a couple of suggestions. First, ‘Catatonic’:
Second one, ‘Opera obscura’, which finds the band getting their prog rock groove on. The song firmly grasps you by the neck, with a phasered-swell sweeping between the channels before all hell breaks loose. It’s easily the most brutal moment in a hard rocking album, but even in its meanest moments, it finds the time to expand, keeping the pace brutal but changing the emotions from anger to longing and then back to anger (and possibly a dash of frustration).
It’s 2012 and the current whereabouts of Detective Vic Mackey are up for debate after that slightly ambiguous ending to the series. His path was hard, his pain was self chosen. …And you will know us by the trail of dead are still here with Lost Songs, and there’s no ambiguity that the sounds and experimentation we love them for are still deeply embedded into their beings.
Words: Sam J. Valdés López