Worlds Apart, the fourth album (and second major label release) from post-punk trio …And You Will Know Us By the Trail of Dead, is a seamless wartime concept album that attempts to paint a portrait of America halfway through the first decade of the 21st century. It succeeds, in part, by accurately capturing at least a segment of the country’s social unrest, but the album’s real strength lies in the fact that it doesn’t crumble into a massive heap beneath the weight of its creators’ grandiose ambition (think Smashing Pumpkins but less obviously beautiful or The Who with a little more grit). Like—or even better than—Green Day’s American Idiot, Worlds Apart segues flawlessly from one song to the next; war is on from the very beginning as bouncy piano and military-style drums give way to chants and screams, but it eventually leads to “Will You Smile Again,” an epic ode to writer’s block, not a song about Iraq. While Conrad Keely’s often grating voice wears thin about halfway through the album, you won’t find a single autotuned vocal throughout, a testament to the band’s punk roots: “Have you ever stopped to wonder/Why they forced your voice to turn/From silence into a caterwaul?” he asks on “Caterwaul.” It’s no surprise The Trail Of Dead originally set up shop in Olympia, WA—this is the kind of music Courtney Love wishes she could make, and Worlds Apart is the record Celebrity Skin should have been. The Trail of Dead might not sound like Nirvana but they’ve certainly captured that band’s angst-ridden spirit on songs like the title track: “Look at those cunts on MTV/With their cars, and cribs, and rings and shit/Is that what being a celebrity means?” Worlds Apart is violent and compassionate (“Let It Dive,” “The Rest Will Follow”), but it’s anything but conservative. If nothing else, the album gives us another reason to log out of iTunes and venture into that old dusty record store down the block.
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