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Getting Re-Acquainted: …And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of The Dead – Mistakes and Regrets

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By the end of the 90s, it had all gotten very…safe. Things had settled down after a rollercoaster ride lasting ten years, a journey that had taken in baggy, grunge, shoegaze, Britpop, trip-hop, and a host of other stuff (grebo, anyone?). But in the dying embers of the second millennium, popular music had sunk into a quagmire of worthiness, a sludgy mess of genre hopping experimentalism without form, and of box ticking, perhaps best exemplified by Blur’s bloated misstep, 13. It was all very worthy, it was all perfectly well executed, and it was all very dull.

And to top it all off, nu-metal was about to take over the world. Like I say, it was a dark time.

Then four noisy Texans unleashed a slab of pure rock fury, just under four minutes of unparalleled rage and excitement that seemed to blow the roof off the century. ‘Mistakes and Regrets’ seemingly came out of nowhere, establishing …And You Will Know us by The Trail of Dead as one of the most exciting musical prospects to have emerged in a long time. For a brief, glittering moment, it looked as if the very future of rock and roll was in our hands, and that anything was possible.

Erupting into life on a bed of rumbling drums and bass, an intricate guitar figure uncoiling full of dark majesty, ‘Mistakes and Regrets’ wastes no time in setting out its stall, a hint of barely concealed menace present from the very beginning. Sonic Youth are an obvious touchstone, but where the New Yorkers drew upon their artistic background to create dissonant art-rock, Trail of Dead seemed to be expressing a raw vein of millennial angst, of raw destructive power, and a compelling sense of dread.

Then the song shifts gear, a razor sharp guitar riff slashing the air, whilst Conrad Keeley spits forth a petulant and bratty assessment of a failed relationship (‘relationship’ in the most democratic sense of the word), castigating his victims with lines like, “If I shouted, you wouldn’t listen, I doubt it would even sink in.” It’s a visceral experience, but a jagged sense of melody is prevalent throughout, a sweetening of this most bitter pill.

The song tears along, almost tripping over itself in its haste to get to the end, and it’s all over too soon. In other words, a perfect pop record.

Sadly, the brilliant future promised by Trail of Dead was not to be, and whilst they still continue to deliver deliciously good records, their revolutionary moment never succeeded to find the audience it so dearly deserved. No matter, for even if they were false prophets, ‘Mistakes and Regrets’ is still the greatest kind of gospel. Steven Rainey

is a writer and broadcaster who has spent his entire life being an elderly version of himself. He believes in the power of True Rock, and discovered heavy metal at the age of 30. He has never married, but has been divorced twice.