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...And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead, 'The Century of Self'

February 16, 2009
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ESSENTIAL "Isis Unveiled"

After releasing two albums that bored even its most ardent fans, . . . And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead is back to blowing minds with "The Century of Self." The new album is a fresh rendering of the prog-pop glory the band so promisingly unleashed on 2002's "Source Tags and Codes." "The Century of Self" works well because it is complex without sounding complicated. Since Trail of Dead is as fond of melodic interludes as it is of sonic flare-ups, the band has lots of room to roam. And here a natural gait emerges, giving "The Century of Self" a definitive groove, something sorely lacking on 2006's "So Divided." The 53-minute "Century" conjures majestic prelude music, invokes boozy singalongs, presents manic passages, and consistently keeps the listener on edge wondering where the core trio and its friends will go next. The piano-driven elegance of the album's top half melts into the chaotic "Ascending" before the band ultimately jells around the meditative "Insatiable (Two)." Trail of Dead employs several spiritual themes and sprinkles religious and prayerful language among shrouded lyrics that create a mood more than reveal a scene. It's clear, in any case, that Trail of Dead is saved. (Out tomorrow) - SCOTT McLENNAN

... And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead plays the Middle East Downstairs March 1.

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