And You Will Know Us
by the Trail of Dead
[The Mail On Sunday, 2005]
LONDON BRIXTON ACADEMY
AND YOU WILL KNOW US
BY THE TRAIL OF DEAD
WHO'D BE A musical pioneer? You lay the groundwork. You struggle to win over a hesitant public. Then you look on as your acolytes glide past, accruing the glory and fortune that should have been yours.
Assuming the now aptly named Busted are set up for life, they should send a cheque by way of thanks to one Paul Westerberg, esq, who they've probably never heard of. Westerberg's band, The Replacements, refined melodic pop-punk into the form we now recognise. Which brings us, in roundabout fashion, to Busted's grown-up archetype, Green Day, who almost certainly wouldn't exist without The Replacements; but who at least have the distinction of being worthy successors.
Copycats aside, the nearest British equivalent to Green Day would be Supergrass. They fizz with impudent energy and nifty tunes. And they're cute. Particularly their pocket frontman, Billie Joe Armstrong. With his teeny legs wrapped in drainpipe trousers, he could be a stylised cartoon from the early Sixties; and on the frequent occasions he climbs the stage-side speaker stacks, he resembles a punkoid wedding cake ornament.
On their latest album, American Idiot, Green Day took considerable artistic and commercial risks. Political dissent is highly unfashionable in the US music business right now, to the extent of derailing careers; while five part song suites don't generally appeal to punk rock kids. The risks paid off, but even so, Green Day are too smart to overplay the protest card. A brief rallying cry at each end of the performance, and nothing but plain, dumb fun in between.
Despite Green Day's hefty roster of well-loved songs, their show is at least one-third shtick. Good shtick, too, as it goes. Audience participation is usually a tedious business; but when Armstrong substitutes the band, one by one, with elated fans, it's hard not to be charmed.
Green Day can take a song uncannily similar to Bryan Adams's Summer of '69 (City of the Damned), or another that sounds like Midnight Oil covering Bruce Springsteen's My Hometown (Are We the Waiting), and make them into anthems for teenagers who view Nirvana much as their parents do The Beatles. The lumbering yet sharp Brain Stew wields its riff the way an elephant might a Stanley knife. Green Day don't just recycle, they reinvigorate.
It's been a pleasure keeping track of raucous Texans And You Will Know Us By The Trail of Dead, and never more so than now. Worlds Apart (Interscope, out tomorrow ****) is a seething, super-heated album, bubbling and heaving with idiosyncratic ideas. It lacks any glaringly obvious influences - aside, oddly, from Gene Clark's rediscovered rococo masterwork No Other, from which All White could be an outtake. Worlds Apart is art spun from spite. It takes sadistic delight in abusing the prettiest of melodies. It gets better every time I play it, so it's their bad luck I didn't put off reviewing it until next week.
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