...And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead - XI: Bleed Here Now Music Album Reviews

...And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead - XI: Bleed Here Now Music Album Reviews
The Austin band returns with its longest and loosest record, characterized by a new sense of lightness.

Not all tales from the pandemic are tragedies. As Conrad Keely tells it, he rather enjoyed the unhurried pace of lockdown and the long days he spent blissfully reading, cooking, and hiking to nowhere in particular, all a welcome respite from the grind and indignities of playing in an aging band with slumping album sales. “Put simply, it was a dream come true,” he says of the downtime he hadn’t realized he’d needed.

Keely tried to bring some of that same sense of leisure to the sessions for …And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead’s 11th album, XI: Bleed Here Now, reasoning that if the band was going to keep carrying on, it shouldn’t feel so much like work. A new six-piece lineup, anchored as ever by Keely and Jason Reece, decamped to an old barn outside of Austin to record, not only to save money but to spare themselves the pressure of tight deadlines. Between takes they’d grill or play soccer and frisbee (or sometimes both at once, via a game they invented called frizball). They spent their evenings luxuriating in wine and conversation.

That relaxed attitude might seem at odds with the fundamental try-hard nature of this band, but it doesn’t curb the group’s signature scope. Bleed Here Now is looser than any recent Trail of Dead album, even though at 75 minutes it’s the band’s longest album to date. It sprawls as much as you’d expect, yet its best moments have a lightness, almost nonchalance to them. True to the album’s punny title, Trail of Dead are still bleeding for their art. But they’re also trying to be in the moment.

Where past records strived for huge statements, Bleed Here Now settles for satisfying standalone tracks. That’s especially true of the album’s exhilarating first half, which plays out as a parade of spirited genre dalliances. In a five-song stretch, they smash cut from the psychedelic jangle of “Field Song” to the Foo-Fighters-by-way-of-Meadowlands anthemic alternative of “Penny Candle” and the Black Sabbath-y vamping of “No Confidence,” then place a roaring hardcore throwback called “Kill Everyone” after a string interlude fit for a Game of Thrones sequence.

While some of the grander swings of the album’s second half inevitably succumb to bloat—it’s as if Keely can’t resist soundtracking the Final Fantasy fan fiction in his head—the record is at its best when it goes small. Bleed Here Now’s sweetest song is its most intimate: “Growing Divide,” a tender, finger-picked plea for climate action in the face of partisan stalemates. “Don’t let the sight of a growing divide make you give up on humanity,” Keely harmonizes with Spoon’s Britt Daniel, their voices enveloping each other for maximum warmth over the sounds of the cresting ocean.

It’s a testament to how approachable, how pleasantly hummable, so many of these songs are that they overshadow the album’s gimmick: It was mixed in quadrophonic sound, a four-channel surround mix considered state-of-the-art in the ’70s but that hasn’t been used much since. You can imagine how rich that might sound, with all that drum separation and all those strings and synthesizers waltzing back and forth between speakers, Zaireeka-style. But you’ll probably have to leave it to your imagination, since nobody outside of the most dedicated Steve Hoffman forum users will have the setup to hear it the way it was intended. It’s endearing, really, the way this band goes the extra mile, even when it hardly matters, but the best thing about Bleed Here Now is how it rarely feels like work, despite all the work that clearly went into it. In their own overachieving way, Trail of Dead have made a hangout record.
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About Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera

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...And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead - XI: Bleed Here Now Music Album Reviews ...And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead - XI: Bleed Here Now Music Album Reviews Reviewed by Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera on Thursday, July 28, 2022 Rating: 5

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