WITH A NAME like And You Will Know Us By the Trail of Dead, you could say these Texan noise-punks are looking for trouble – and they’ve certainly found it.
The four-piece band are starting to attract a lot of attention, much of it surrounding the violence at their shows rather than the music.
An incident a month ago has already become notorious. Performing in their home town, San Antonio, the band were attacked by their audience, forcing the hapless combo to defend themselves with their own instruments. As a result, their debut UK tour was delayed a month, pending police investigations and the replacement of their broken gear. Spicing things up even more before their visit to these shores, one of them declared: “It’s like the Roman Coliseum. It seems people are coming to see the gladiators shed blood.”
Much needed rock’n’roll mayhem? An empty, dangerous, misguided stunt? Both? Things have got so sterile in pop lately that Trail of Dead attract a sell-out crowd. Many appear bent on satisfying voyeurism, rather than their ears. When one of the four-piece band swings dangerously from the lighting rig, there are squeals of delight.
However, the rest of the gig is a curiously sedate affair, which means that people are forced to focus on the music – and, frankly, being chased around an arena by a homicidal gladiator would possibly be more desirable.
Trail of Dead aren’t bad, they’re just stupefyingly boring. They start off briskly enough, with a wall of textured punk somewhere between Sonic Youth, Placebo and the Damned, but things quickly descend into an impenetrable tuneless sludge of dated sonic goth.
More curiously, even their banter seems as orchestrated as their reputation, with repeated references to exotic buzzwords Texas, drugs and body parts (a running joke about how the word plectrum sounds like one. Oh, how nobody laughed).
When things degenerate further into identikit shouty punk, we are starting to know them by the trail of people trickling away. But you have to stay until the last song, urges someone, hopefully. Sure enough, they end proceedings by ceremoniously trashing the drum kit.
Roman Coliseum – my toga. Now, if only someone would give them swords and chuck ’em in the ring with Westlife.
© Dave Simpson, The Guardian, 29 November 2000