Live Review – And You Will Know Us By The Trail of Dead @ The Castle & Falcon

And You Will Know Us By The Trail of Dead

The Castle & Falcon

Review by Tom Tomston

And You Will Know Us By The Trail of Dead

I arrive at Birmingham’s fantastic Castle and Falcon just in time to catch the tail-end of Spoilers’ belligerent set, their shouty, tuneful, racket bringing to mind favourable comparisons to the now defunct and criminally underrated Baddies (RIP), setting the tone for a pleasant evening as the first sips of my pint are accompanied by a generous side-order of feedback squeals and bassy gut-thump.

Cocking a squinted eye around the room before the main attraction, I can see that I’m not alone here; a solid corridor of semi-reformed indie-kids occupy the entirety of the Falcon’s long and narrow space, their piercings and ear-lobe gauges now accompanied by the first signs of crow’s feet around the eyes. As someone who stumbled upon AYWKUBTTOD in my late teens, on MTV2 at two in the morning, carbon-dating the faces around me would suggest a similar story. Having embarrassingly not kept up with their impressive catalogue of albums beyond 1999’s breakthrough ‘Madonna’, I wondered what the 36 year-old me would make of their subsequent output. As it turned out, I wouldn’t get to find out this evening, since this tour was celebrating the 20th anniversary of said long-player. Would this merely be an exercise in lost-youth nostalgia for a roomful of middle-aged office workers?

No. The air around us warps with the collective intake of breath as Trail of Dead plunge into the surging chorus of Mistakes and Regrets, a palpable release of tension and celebratory, communal catharsis. All doubt is erased in a heartbeat: this is full-blooded, full-throated and irrepressibly urgent. Fuck nostalgia. Minutes in and sweat is already thickening the air.

Amid the frenetic thrash they are known for, comes tight, regimental drumming and ferocious yelps and screams, counterpointing the Slint-esque angles at which their guitars bathe the audience in distortion. And this is, after all, an audience that still remember their cue to mosh when called upon, and who scream every word back at interchangeable frontmen Conrad Keeley and Jason Reece. That’s not to say Trail of Dead have only one setting. There’s a deftness of touch behind the walls of noise that can destabilise by giving way to slow, glimmering melodies, a teenage longing breathed underneath the brashness. Indeed, this is intricate stuff: not just big riffs and blistering drums, but switched-up time signatures and tracks that veer seamlessly from all-out punk thrash to meditative, dreamy asides.

What becomes clear across a lean, hour-and-a-bit set, is that Trail of Dead still pack the urgency of those teenage years. As another spontaneous mosh erupts, it’s obvious that this particular teen-spirit is infectious – this is a roomful of people who are not done yet, who absolutely still feel it and mean it like they did 20 years ago.

I unwittingly make for the exit at the same time Conrad makes a hasty dash for the merch stall. The first thing he does, post-performance and drenched in sweat? Get himself a Spoilers t-shirt. While some of us might feel 16 on the inside, it’s heartening that some of us are just 16 forever.

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