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And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead

So Divided (Interscope)

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Poor Conrad Keely -- no one seems to understand the Trail of Dead frontman. The chorus he leads on "Wasted State of Mind," from the Austin prog-punkers' new disc, exemplifies Keely's anguish: "Caught in a stasis, feels like I've wasted all this time/With people and places who've never related or desired." But more often than not, Keely's profundity feels more like bloated excess. So Divided is loaded with corpulent puffery: the intro track full of cacophonous cocktail chatter, the white-noise segue that escaped the cutting-room floor ("In the Realms of the Unreal"), and a painfully forced symphonic interlude, the gagging "Stand in Silence." The group even does a campy cover of Guided by Voices' "Goldheart Mountaintop Queen Directory." But none of the pretentious transgressions eclipse the brilliant "Naked Sun," a clenched fist ready to punch, or the title track, where patience pays off with the riveting syncopation of two drummers. And one mustn't forget the oddities: the cheery, psychedelic sing-along "Eight Day Hell" or "Sunken Dreams," a new-wave concoction evocative of the Cult. Overall, it's another triumph for Trail of Dead, even if Keely's always auditioning for the role of misunderstood genius.

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