By Jeremy Hallock
By James Khubiar
By Observer Staff
By Kelly Dearmore
By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
Opener "It Was There That I Saw You" immediately takes any preconceptions and pummels them into a thousand white-hot shards. Keely belts out a heartfelt Brit-pop melody and is quickly joined by a barrage of soaring sonic rapture in a marriage that wouldn't be unlike MBV mastermind Kevin Shields jamming with Blur on "Song 2." The string-laden rainy-day aftermath bumps up against Busch's taut, sneering "Baudelaire" and explodes into Reece's punk-rock "Homage."
The album has no single grand mal spasm like "A Perfect Teenhood" off 1999's Madonna (released on Merge Records), but it does have an incomparable holy trinity of songs by dreamtime tunesmith Keely and, most important, that elusive sense of flow and totality that separates the great albums from the merely good ones. Like their not-quite-as-punk patron saints Sonic Youth, they thrive on three distinct voices, as well as a penchant for tense, whisper-to-a-scream dynamics and rich, off-kilter guitar tones.
"That's one of our biggest assets, having guys who are into so much different stuff and able to do so many different things," says Busch. "It gives us a number of ways to color our sound just the way we want."
Another boon is the Interscope budget, which oddly enough doesn't blank-check the band's equipment expenditures, but does give it studio versatility.
"I think our other records might sound more like this if we had the same ability to make them sound just the way we want," Busch posits. "If we needed a piano tuner, there was one there. If we wanted to add a string section, we could do that, too."
Huh. Stevie Ray didn't go around using string sections. Does that make him more punk than the Trail of Dead, or less punk than the Trail of Dead?