Part two, whee! (You can have a read of part one here).
The aggressive, joyful and beautiful harmonies on Fields Of Coal provide the mid-session entertainment, with sheer vitality buoying things along just as much as the circulating pianos and helicoptering double-drums, proof that trying to consciously write singles on the last couple of albums has done Trail Of Dead no harm. In Inland Sea we find the centrepiece, we “prepare to face the old world”, and we reach zeniths unmatched at any point in the band’s career. It’s almost romantic in scope, chameleonic in execution and finishes with an ingenious ritardando climax that’s released at exactly the right moment. An example, again, of how the synthesis
If there are any discardable numbers (and there barely are), it’s the slower, more ponderous affairs. Luna Park isn’t perfect, outstaying its welcome despite its inviting unison piano and acoustic guitar motifs and cooed words. The following Pictures Of An Only Child essentially performs the same idea an awful lot better, jittery and restless in its hush, but never frightened to expand and contract. Elsewhere, the child-like melodies and indie-pop guitar solos of Ascending sparkle, but the hasty album conclusion of An August Theme and Insatiable Two don’t quite provide the cataclysmic ending suggested by the first act. Though the vocal harmonies on the closer are sweet and mellow, there’s not enough substance to warrant the early exit. It’s like losing a sneeze.
So the grandiose finds a mate in fury, and Trail Of Dead’s confusing (for some) previous form finally forms focus, now a clear schematic rather than a cloudy impression. The violence of early releases finally sits alongside their massive ambition and is controlled for the most part, resulting in an album of balancing acts, genius construction and well-placed fireworks. It finishes on a slight whimper, pleasantly enough, but the main thing is that …And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead could well have crafted the first album in a period of new focus and importance for them.