Conrad and the boys are back with a vengeance on 'So Divided' Where `World's Apart' was really a huge departure from the sound fans have come to love about the Trail of Dead, this sounds like the best parts of both of their two previous albums molded together. Once again there is a wide variety of songs (including not only a Guided By Voices cover but also a song that could have been taken straight off the last Shins CD), but somehow it all seems to flow just fine even when listening to the whole thing at once. In Conrad's own words, "On the previous record, I was trying harder to be optimistic, but I also wasn't really writing about myself. All the stuff I wrote on this record is definitely about what I've been going through, and I didn't mince words or try to paint a prettier picture."
The rocking, psychedelic, fuzzed out sound that everyone loved on `Source Tags' has returned, but it's now melded perfectly with the anthemic quality introduced on `World's Apart'. This new style works magnificently on standouts like "Wasted State of Mind" and the title track. I can already envision entire audiences singing along and blazing lighters to "Wasted State of Mind". "So Divided" is just an instant classic. It starts out pretty laid back, but before the second verse, the tempo doubles, racing along through the next two verses as if some amphetamines had just kicked in. It all culminates in the long, crashing third verse with Conrad screaming some great lyrics:
"You think your future is warm and bright,
But it is death and I'm your destiny.
You think you'll be protected by God,
I'll put you out of your misery."
If you haven't already figured it out, by the time you get to the end of this song you will know that the Trail of Dead have definitely got the groove back.
On "Naked Sun" Keely seems like he's begging for Oasis comparisons until a minute and a half in when you think the next verse is gonna start and instead you get a jazz breakdown with Conrad playing one of the sax's himself. The song picks back up again and kicks along like normal for another couple minutes before trailing off into a typical ToD style musical buildup, with a group singing the final lyrics ("I'll burn a way out") over and over, louder every time. Eventually you begin to hear this amazing guitar solo kind of playing way back in the mix, but it's so good you will strain to hear it. The Trail of Dead aren't known for their solos, but this one sounds like Neil Young in his prime, shredding the sh#t out of Old Black.
"Life", "Eight Days of Hell", and "Witch's Web" are three kind of "pop" songs in a row. "Life" is similar to the Beatlesque songs from `World's Apart' but better. It has an interesting piano-backed coda sung by Lily Courtney, ending in the oh-so-true line "it`s hard getting older all the same." "Witch's Web" is - are you ready for this? - an acoustic song with not only country slide guitar, but also a chorus where Conrad finally shows us he can slip into a haunting falsetto.
So, it`s a month since this has been released and I`m still listening to it regularly and still finding it amazing and that begs the question: Is this better than `Source Tags & Code?' Well...no it's not. `Source Tags' was perfect in everyway, it had moments like the title track which I would place alongside the likes of even `Sticky Fingers' era Rolling Stones, or "Days of Being Wild" which is the aural equivalent of trashing a hotel room. `So Divided' does come damn close though, it deserves at least four and a half stars.