It’d be easy to bemoan the fact that Worlds Apart fails to reach the rarified status attained by its predecessor, Source Tags & Codes, as a flawlessly executed indie classic, but to admit to having held such high expectations for this album would expose me as a fool. Truth be told, since its release almost three years ago, I haven’t liked any other album by any other artist as much as I did Source Tags & Codes. I’m not holding M83’s new album, for example, up against that standard, so why should I do the same for Worlds Apart? All we can know for sure is that, due to my considerable bias, I’m probably unqualified to review this album. The band begins the album with a brief intro track consisting largely of pounding pianos and howling choirs, attempting to completely corner the market on the words “anthemic” and “epic.” It moves swiftly into “Will You Smile Again?” which is a textbook Trail of Dead song with its multiple structures, varying styles and climactic ending. It works.
Then comes the much-discussed title track, which also happens to be the album’s lead single. The lyrics actually are as deplorable as advertised, which is a shame because the song’s melody is possibly the catchiest the Trail of Dead have ever written. My initial excitement upon hearing the song’s opening chords is repeatedly quelled by the lyrics’ pathetically contentious attempts to stir controversy by attacking some of the most beloved institutions of this great land, namely soccer moms, dads, Jesus and MTV Cribs.
The core of the album is a retread of the band’s trademark sound, with both hits and misses. On “Summer of ’91,” singer Conrad Keely’s voice is accompanied by little else but a piano. There are several moments like this on the album, but here he sings more softly than usual, a style that does not suit him. But on the very next track, “The Rest Will Follow,” the production adds distance and hollowness to his voice, which bolsters the song’s desperation. Those looking for the next great step forward by the Trail of Dead may end up being disappointed. From a musical standpoint, little has changed for the band. They continue to specialize in performing well-crafted mini-anthems. While Worlds Apart left me nowhere near floored, there was little to dislike in this regard.
The band’s principal transformation is characterized by tone. The seething anger that fueled many of their previous triumphs has now been replaced by an unfortunate bitterness. Worlds Apart is replete with skillful musicianship left weakened by haughty, disdainful social commentary. Your perception of this album may hinge largely on which of these two aspects you choose to weigh more heavily.
Archived article by Ross McGowan
Sun Staff Writer