OK, let's start by stating unequivocally that …And You Will Know Us By the Trail of Dead is a pretty impressive band; their previous records have been almost unanimously acclaimed and their live show has been described with the kind of agressive-sounding adjectives usually used to describe multiple murderers. Their most recent record however, was mysteriously delayed and I've even heard that people had leaked copies of the record as early as last September. The question remains as to whether the delay might have been some disappointment by their label, or perhaps some attempt to shelter the world from the possibly universe-shattering effects of a record which might top Source Tags and Codes.
Well, the universe - and my use of superlatives - is safe for now because Worlds Apart is not that record; in fact, as the successor to Source Tags is unfufilling to say the least. With that in mind however, it is also not deserving of the torrential downpour of scorn showered on it by disappointed critics either. Getting accustomed to the sound of such a restrained record is more than a little shocking, but as an individual work, it's not entirely without its charms.
The title track, for example, injects a catchy, Pogues-tinged touch with the kind of vengeful lyricism that is focused entirely on the excesses and shameful behaviour of the mainstream media and culture. It's a little weird to hear the harsh language to describe some of the hedonists who adorn MTV, but it's not entirely undeserved. While some will condemn the band for taking popular culture to task in such a brazen way, it seems fair to give the band the right to play critic considering how challenging their previous records have been.
Later, the band toys with a McCartney-esque arrangement on ”Summer of '91,“ taking the piano arrangement and building it into a little indie opus. ”Let It Dive“ has the kind of anthemic, epic feel that seems so friendly and inclusive that it seems almost strange to hear it from this band. But individually interesting songs don't always lead to a cohesive vision and part of the problem is how entirely disconnected the songs sound from each other. Some records beg you to listen to them from the first track to the last, and part of the thrill of album-based music is this cohesiveness. To create a record is infinitely more challenging, but also much more rewarding and this is one of the places where the Trail Of Dead has definitely failed.
On top of that there are a number of fairly uneven, unrealized or just plain boring tracks. The folky
atmosphere of ”The Rest Will Follow“ is disappointingly bland. ”All White“ sounds like a brazen - and fairly pedestrian - Bowie ripoff. ”Last City Of Refuge,“ the closing track, just lacks momentum and seems to putter along aimlessly.
In short, Worlds Apart comes across as the greatest hits of a forgotten indie rock band, and not a major achievement from a current one, and sure, there are some memorable songs, but there are also a few too many tracks that will be inevitably skipped over. Put another way, it's like the question that arises when listening to the Clash's final record, Cut The Crap. Sure, it's a passable enough record from a great band, but it's no London Calling. I guess the question is, where is the Trail Of Dead's Mick Jones and why did they kick him out?