With perhaps one of the most nerdy titles of the year (at least from the perspective of this fellow who does some HTML and other coding), And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead seems to have planned things just about right with their major label debut. About 2 months ago, the Relative Ways EP came out at a bargain price, probably reeling in some new listeners, as well as letting the fans of the group that they hadn't gone off and completely changed their style now that they'd gotten a little bling-bling.
Of course, with big labels comes big hype, and with big hype comes big fights. Some people have already accused the band of selling out (it's actually a bit scary thinking that they at least partially fall under the backwards-baseball cap shadow of Fred Durst), but having moved up to a slightly larger label with each release (starting out with the tiny Trance Syndicate, then moving up to Merge before subsequently landing with Interscope), it seems like the group is just living the rock-and-roll dream, which is trying to expose as many people as possible to their music. Heck, they've paid their dues with the small labels (unlike some *cough* bands *Strokes*) and toured their asses off, so unless they're changing their sound I can hardly fault them unless they've gone off and done a 180 degree turn.
To answer that last question/sentence, the group hasn't gone off and created something that will alienate fans. Sure, they make use of their obviously higher budget and Source Tags And Codes sounds more rich and layered because of it, but like Modest Mouse with The Moon And Antarctica, they've used these new elements to accent their music, not destroy it. The album starts out on a blistering note with "It Was There That I Saw You" and doesn't really relent much, pounding out "Another Morning Stoner" (with some slightly silly vocal hics) and "Baudelaire."
The group finally calms things down a bit about five songs in with "How Near, How Far," and the piano-touched "Heart In The Hand Of The Matter," but even the latter track has screamed vocals that kick the track up a notch after a slower beginning. "Days Of Being Wild" is a short, stomper that has a chorus that harks back to mid-80's guitar rock in a good way. In short, it's just on this side of being arm-pumping arena-rock cheesy, and deserves to be a hit.
It's that touch of older influence that haunts several tracks on the disc, including "Monsoon," which feels like it was written after listening to the greatest hits collection by The Cult (and vocal stylings that even somewhat remind one of Ian Astbury). It's little things like this that give the album sort of a nostalgic rock feel while still sounding fresh at the same time. All of the above said, don't expect the disc to be the new saviour of rock (and hopefully Interscope isn't counting on the same thing), because while it is great, it's not earth-shattering. Still, it's rock when rock sometimes gets shoved to the background in favor of other elements, and with spring coming up, I can already hear this blasting out of cars with the top down on hot days while occupants rock out and sing along. And I'd much rather hear that than most other limp rock that's coming out these days.