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Entry date: 3-23-2024 – It’s Saturday and I have a Gig – Letters to My Friends

Dear Friends,

 

I wonder about myself a lot. If you’ve been reading here for a while, that comes as no surprise to you. I wonder why I do some things and not others. We all do this. It’s that little voice inside ourselves that keeps us guessing, doubting, worrying, fretting, and procrastinating.

 

The trick, from what I’ve read, is to not give into the voice and just do things. Don’t twiddle the existential thumbs. Don’t sit on the existential pot. Get up, go, and do.

 

 It’s far too common, though, for me to be trying to write myself these notes so that I might read them again and learn to get off my motherfucking ass and get busy. Saturday morning is as good a time as any to get with the program, I suppose, so it’s time to get to it.

 

***** 

 

We have a show tonight in Tempe at Trent’s motorcycle club’s clubhouse. We play with some bands that I don’t know, but I’m going to give it my all. Every song we play tonight will be for my friend Jim and his wife, Stephanie. I doubt she will come out and I wouldn’t expect her to, but I’m going to dedicate them all to him.

 

This show will be interesting because we haven’t practiced together since our last show. This year, we will have had one practice and two shows. How in the hell does that work? I guess that’s how it works when you know each other well and know you shit.

 

Hillbilly Devilspeak is fun like that. I’d like to write some new songs, but that would mean working on them and none of us seem truly motivated to do that. I have a hard time wrapping my brain about what new Hillbilly would be like in 2024. I guess we shall see.

 

*****

The other plan is to put some time in on the website today. I have to get The Bet up there as, starting on Monday, most of my daily stuff will be dedicated to this story for a while. I will also be adding a bunch more of the record stories, too.

 

Speaking of…

 

*****

 

While I love the debut (and self-titled) record by And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead, the first one I bought was Madonna. I had seen them on an episode of Farmclub.com which was a show on the USA network in either 2000 or 2001 and was blown away. I had to check out a record.

 

If you aren’t familiar with Trail of Dead, purposefully shortened because I don’t want to write the whole name 20 times in the following paragraphs, there is a lot going on with this band. Their performance on the TV show I mentioned was pure chaos, heavy, and slightly ragged, but also a really cool and great song. Their records are also kind of like this, although they have a real knack for also having these huge, lovely parts of their songs that are lush and beautiful.

 

As a band, they typify what I hope the end of the world will be like if I am here to see it.

 

Madonna starts off with pure power. There is a nifty little intro piece that flows into “Mistakes & Regrets.” You just know when the initial guitar part is going to swell into something huge as it goes on for the first 45 seconds or so before the song really kicks in. I’ve seen Trail of Dead referred to as post-hardcore and I guess that is appropriate. It’s also, I guess, heavy indie or power indie? I don’t know.

 

I just know I like it a lot.

 

“Mistakes & Regrets” is a wonderful opener, and it has all the elements I spoke of earlier. It’s big but then dissolves into these almost quiet parts that are carried through by a fantastic drum beat. “Totally Natural” comes right in on the heels of its predecessor and just takes it up another notch. Conrad Keely is one of the driving forces behind Trail of Dead and the guy has a serious knack for making super cool shit. These two songs had me hooked from the get-go and I was ready for more.

 

“The chains lie broken one by one/of the molten sod illusion/of a broken home/of a street fight/It’s a Friday night alone/It’s a bottle warming on the shefl/It’s feeling inches away from death/it’s a street, it’s an icicle/it’s a panic attack, it’s only an act, yeah.”

 

That ending of “Totally Natural” is amazing and then it does the big rock cliché ending, too. An explosion of guitar and keyboard noise fades into the next song.

 

“Blight Takes All” has that whole ‘chaotic apocalypse’ thing going on in it. On the one hand, it’s really pretty, then on the other, it sounds kind of hopeless. It’s the tiny, ringing piano part that is layered perfectly in the mix. Keely sounds a bit like Bono if there was still some desperation in the singer/activist. Until now, I never thought about the connection between U2 and Trail of Dead, but it’s there.

 

I just saw that this record came out the day after my 30th birthday in 1999. It made me wonder what I was doing on that particular day. It was a Tuesday, so I was probably at a school in the Clarendon district as I was doing a program that had me in two schools for the fall semester that year for two days a week each. I was working with 4th graders, too, just like I do now.

 

That was around the time when one of the boys I worked with was going around asking students at lunch if they wanted to bite his pickle. He would take one of the large pickles they would get at lunch sometimes and hold it up where his penis should be. That was not a lot of fun. He was a piece of work. He’s in his 30s now, though. Imagine what he’s like…

 

 

“Clair de Lune” is not a cover of the famous Debussy song, but it’s haunting and beautiful like its namesake. “What good are promises if nobody honors them?” is such a good line. It comes about halfway in and, like “Blight Takes All” there is this really great and subtle piano line that drifts under the whispered line about “promises.” It’s so good.

 

This record falls into the chasm between records I wish I would have played on and records I’m in love with so I can just appreciate it as a fan. After meeting the dudes briefly a couple years ago when they played Phoenix, I think they’d be all right to hang out with and make some rock and roll music.

 

There is a slight shift in mood with “Flood of Red” but it has the same sort of swells that make Trail of Dead so great. You can’t get too comfortable with being mellow for too long because a chorus or bridge is going to come along and rock your face off. In this one, it’s a powerful bridge that takes you up a notch before dropping you off a cliff again into a fuzzy indie-rock garden.

 

As bands like Trail of Dead are wont to do, there are some tracks that are put on to cleanse the palate and fuck with the listener a bit. “Children of the Hydra’s Teeth” is one such odd little instrumental-ish track. There does seem to be a weird little insect-like vocal in the left channel that I can’t quite make out.

 

“Mark David Chapman” sort of sounds like Sonic Youth and New Order had a baby at first but then morphs back into a Trail of Dead song. It has another cool bridge where the song sort of folds into itself before swelling up to a cool crescendo of feedback laden guitar. Good stuff.

 

“Up from Redemption” is another space filler that sets up the longest track on Madonna, “Aged Dolls.” There are some really cool effects on the guitars in the intro of “Aged Dolls.” It’s quite big sounding and then settles down to tell you a story. I love this song a lot.

 

If the world were to end, I would like for there to be some quiet moments where I could just soak up the moment and experience the love I feel for my wife and children and family of friends. I would want some calm to just appreciate them, if possible, and bathe in the gentle feeling of love. Of course, there would be angst and anger, too, if I wasn’t quite ready to let go.

 

“Aged Dolls” is a song that sort of some this stuff up for me.

 

Dig this chorus:

 

So, I'm sweet on you

I am transparent

So, I'm sweet on you

I am a motherfucking ghost

 

Haunting. It’s one of those 7-minute songs that doesn’t feel like it is that long. Fucking epic.

 

“The Day the Air Turned Blue” is a bit of pained piano. Short and not very sweet, but pretty and sad as hell. “A Perfect Teenhood” has a great guitar riff that is super ‘Trail of Dead-y’ and drips punk rock. It’s almost as if the band was like, “you know what, let’s put a total banger on this record right before the end” replete with a dozen “Fuck you’s.”

 

Jason Reece, the other half of Trail of Dead, is a bad-ass drummer. He’s also a good frontman, too. If I had to bet, I would actually put money on “A Perfect Teenhood” being a song that Keely played drums on, but I can’t seem to find out who did what by looking at two different websites and that is my fucking limit.

 

“Sigh Your Children” is a bit of a tack on song, at first, but it’s actually quite cool. It’s angsty and one you can sink your teeth into before it morphs into something completely different. There is a hidden track of noise happening here for the last couple minutes. Another one of those, “We do this because we can” things.

 

 

This won’t be the only And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead record I write about this year, but it’s probably my favorite. I do reserve the right to change my mind about that.

 

*****

 

See you tomorrow.



I used to entertain myself with Paint on the computer. It was a lot of fun.

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