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…And You Will Know Us By the Trail Of Dead – ULU 2nd December 2004

Aah, my beloved Trail of Dead, the band who meld the visceral with the cerebral - although sometimes you wish the two weren’t so closely connected when you’ve got band members and equipment landing on your head. I’d been a bit uncertain about this gig beforehand, the usual excitement dampened by my being underwhelmed by new single ‘World’s Apart’ (sounds strangely like ‘Waltzing Matilda’) and the fact that bass hero Neil Busch has seemingly gone for good. Yep, things is changing in TOD land. Neil’s bass replacement is mighty, illustrated man Danny Wood of The Rise who has managed to smash the restrictive TOD (lack of) height laws, bestriding the stage as a seven foot colossus. Then there’s the addition of an EXTRA drummer, Doni Schroader from Forget Cassettes. Is there anything finer than seeing two drumkits set up side by side? Squatting silently, gleaming malevolently, waiting for all hell to break loose. So here I am lined up at the barrier (what’s this? Since when did ULU have a photopit?) getting quite excited now, as the stage goes black and Conrad creeps on to start rattling about spookily on the organ – ooer. The tension heightens until…’We’ll be with you soon, one of the band is outside buying shoes from a homeless person.’ And with that Conrad scampers off again.

Minimalist drumkits are so in. Then it all kicks off, shadowy figures stalk the stage as the thumping intro to newy ‘Will You Smile Again’ judders around the room. Okay, I’m properly excited now. This is the first of three new songs that get played tonight and it’s littered with glitter stomp (double) drums, raw and sparse, kicking out a marching beat. It’s a fine way to start, slapping a ‘Ha! We’re Back!’ stamp on proceedings from the off. TOD have always been masters of the thrillingly portentous song opening, a trick they pull off on several occasions tonight with old faves like ‘Aged Dolls’, and the mighty ‘Mistakes and Regrets’ which, second song in, shakes the crowd from their new song reverie.
It’s almost business as usual then as ‘It Was There‘ keeps things sweatily hyper and ‘Homage’ allows Jason his first opportunity to break out and shake loose from behind his drums. Not that he’s letting them confine him; the great thing about having Doni on board is that it allows Jason to rampage round the stage/audience without the songs missing a beat. During his non-singing numbers, he still rushes to the front to shout before throwing himself back down for a bit of an old drum. This means we get double the fun with Jason and Conrad dementedly showing out at the front together. Jason does his clambering along the barrier, hollering thing. Squished underneath a raving, sodden Jason, I exchange excited grins with the girl next to me. Is this what it’s like being 12 years old at a boyband concert? "Kum By YAAAAHHH!"
New song number two is ‘Classic Art Showcase’ - straight up rock with a 12 string middle for which, oh joy! Conrad straps on a double-necked guitar and manages to still look cool.
Kev in non-smoking shock! So things change, things stay the same. Neil is sorely missed, not because Danny’s not an ace bassman, but because it just doesn’t seem right without Mr Busch balancing the left side of the stage with his amp-toppling, lead-throttling antics. Plus, we presumably won’t get to hear ace Neilsongs like ‘Mark David Chapman’ and ‘Monsoon’ any more. This is not good. So, Kevin takes up Neil’s place, no longer able to lurk at the back smoking up a storm and calmly strangling his guitar. At one point he takes the unprecedented step of hurling his guitar high across the stage, it bounces off a light and narrowly misses Conrad’s head as it plummets to the floor. So, yes some things stay the same, instruments hurtle across the stage, drumsticks (no drumkits this time) fly into the crowd, Jason flies into the crowd, at one point I look round and Conrad’s in the crowd, jumping about in appreciation of his own band.
Jason stalks the stage again to stampede his way through, ‘Days of Being Really Fucked Up and Killing People Motherfuckers’ which I think has maybe had a title change? As Conrad reclaims mastery of the stage, he’s distraught to find liquid pooling across it, ‘What’s this mess up here? Did you pee?’ Jason, ‘I think I urinated on stage.’ Thus third new song, ‘Caterwaul’ is introduced. Caterwaul sounds like an adjunct to ‘Days…’ which is to say it’s thumpingly ace, stirring shoutalong chorus and all. Of the new songs it’s the most immediate and seems to get the biggest crowd reaction, perhaps because it involves Jason clambering up the speaker stacks, sitting, legs swinging like a naughty child/monkey, before plummeting back down onto the stage.

That shiny old chestnut, ‘A Perfect Teenhood’ delivers its delirious thrills and spills and the set ends with an extended, ranting, ‘Richter Scale Madness’ with false endings galore. But look! Instruments are still intact here, time to bust out the encores with a swooning version of ‘How Near How Far’ complete with a ridiculous buggering up of the middle bit as Conrad flashes an ‘it’s all gone pear-shaped!’ goofy grin. Thanks to a broken guitar strap, Kevin plays the entire song on his knees, prompting Conrad to ask, ‘Were you having a religious moment there?’ Finally there’s a magnificent, ferocious ‘Totally Natural’ with Jason and Conrad patrolling the lip of the stage, the barriers, the crowd's heads as everyone loses it big-time and all the equipment gets a thorough duffing up…

Trail of Dead in instrument destruction "shock"!
…scenes of devastation, everything’s scattered in pieces across the stage, in the middle Jason is repeatedly stabbing at a toppled bassdrum, aiming to pierce its skin. Conrad approaches his bandmate, takes him gently by the arm and leads him away.
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