Source Tags & Codes

Source Tags and Codes

‘Source Tags…’ is the band’s third full length album, and the first recorded for Interscope records with major-label distribution. It is often cited by fans as being their best, although the band continues to deny this to this day, claiming that their best record is the one they’re currently working on (which ever that might be).

Although much has been made about Pitchfork giving the album a 10, Keely considers the rating to be preposterous, as it is clearly nowhere close to a perfect album. He is willing to forgive the error in light of the fact that the musical memory of most people these days does not stretch back further than 1989.

Source Tags was recorded in Cotati, CA, just north of San Fransisco, and mixed in Nashville, TN with a budget of $150K (the price of a decent sized house in Austin during this time). A video for the album was budgeted by the label at a cost of $90K, which goes to show just how much things have changed.

It Was There (That I Saw You)


It was there that I saw you
And it was there that I came
As evening sighs,
Rises up against the sky-line
Let me come and have my leis
You were fair and fey as a sun that evil day
We were bold and life was great
But as time went on
I wondered what went wrong
I wondered what became of you

Let me hold you in my arms dear
And let me melt in the heat of your gaze
And let the clock strike one,
Time and mind go marching on
Let our sense of selves decay

It was there that I saw you
In the heat of a summer’s embrace
But as time went on
I wondered what went wrong
And I wondered what became of you.


In this song, Keely had intended to conjure up the intoxicating thrill of living in Austin Texas in the mid-nineties, before America had gone to shit. The inspiration came from a girl he used to work with that he had a crush on, and several late nights spent in the company of people on drugs.

The line “Rises up against the sky line” was originally “Lost in Austin’s skyline”, which refers to something he heard a homeless person say as they were walking out of Tower Records on Guadelupe: “Lost in Austin!”

Another Morning Stoner


Are you asleep, are you in a dream?
The copper shades of a morning
Distant lights beckon & fade
Unwritten songs of another day

I fear that you will never be
Every song in the world for me
I took your hand, led you astray
You cursed the worlds I longed to save

Is heaven to you a perfect place?
The look of sorrow on a sufferer’s face?
A field of lives to sow and to reap
That some of us will never see

Why is it I don’t feel the same?
Are my longings to be blamed
For not seeing heaven like you would see;
Why is a song a world for me?

What is forgiveness?
It’s just a dream.
What is forgiveness?
It’s everything.


The title for this song was intended as a lewd pun on a morning erection and not, as has often been assumed, the act of smoking marijuana, although that works just as well.

Keely’s inspiration for the song came from an ex-girlfriend who was raised Christian. It recalls a moral dilemma he underwent when he realized that eventually theology would drive them apart more than anything else, because of his strong negative feelings towards organized religion.

The line “field of lives to sow and reap” refers to reincarnation, I guess.



The only sin in this world of pain
In this world of shame
In this world of heartache

The only sin in this world unjust
In this world of lust
In this world distrusting

The only sin in this world corrupt
Where passions erupt
And end abrupt
Is a crime
With no great gestures cry
Its eyes, with no great evils shine

Here among all the vicious beasts
With their blood lust feast
Ordained by black priests

Here among poison viper’s bite
A police gunfight
In the unknown night
Is a man
With no great master plan
No deadly weapon clutching in his hand

You’ll never see the light
In the darkest night
Never see the light
Never see the light
When the boredom comes
If you’re one of the boring ones

The only crime in this violent place
With lies two faced
Where loves disgraceful

Crimes committed with sharpened knives
And wasted lives
Of those who are forced
To shove
And murder the peace dove
There is no higher calling coming from above

You’ll never see the light
Quell this appetite
Never see the light
Never see the light
When the boredom comes

When you’re one of the boring ones


The title of this song refers to the French poet. The song itself, written by Neil Busch, was inspired by a book of Baudelaire’s poems and the philosophy that he expressed through them.

This song had originally been written as material for an EP for Merge Records, but ended up on the full-length EP for Interscope on the advice of a fortune-teller. It had also been considered as a single for the record, but unfortunately radio did not ask the band for another single.

Although this an often requested song, the band has never managed to put together a live performance of it since Neil left the band in 2002, because of the difficulty of finding a bassist able to sing it with the appropriate Elvis inflection.



It is a round about that I cannot leave
I circle for decades
Only to find obscurity
My life is haunted by young devilry

I heard your voice
On my radio
Lost into this night

Brutal kids of this promised future
Cut the highways
With shards of truth
I call out to my young and black hearted
Do you believe in what I have seen?

I heard your voice
On my radio
Lost into this night

Do you believe in what I have seen?


The title of the song refers to the fact that Jason Reece, the composer, meant it as an homage to one of his favorite bands, Unwound. To his knowledge they have never returned the compliment.

This track continues to be a regular selection on the band’s live set list, and continues to bring in revenue on radio. All proceeds from the song go to the Nepalese government-in-exile.

An often recounted anecdote regarding the recording of this song is that in order to get Keely aggressive enough to play the drum track, producer Mike McCarthey woke him up that morning by throwing cold water in his face.

How Near How Far


Looking back in time
Through verses set in nursery rhyme
At oil painted eyes
Of muses left behind
I swear I know not why
Those eyes have always left me dry

She stands with arms stretched out
Towards the mountains & the clouds
Oil painted eyes
Blind yet hypnotized
I swear I know not why
Those eyes have always left me dry

(How near, how far, how lost they are…)

I’ve rendered every line
Every contour of a muse’s eye
Painted in my eyes mind
On canvases of time
I swear I know not why
Those eyes have always left me dry


‘How Near How Far’ was a song idea Keely had written three years before it was finally recorded. The “How near, how far” refrain was actually a different song that he added. Its original lyrics were “How near, how far, what gods they are,” referring to the Egyptian pantheon.

The original subject matter was discarded by Keely in favor of a new topic. After reading a book entitled ‘Maxfield Parrish and Sue Lewin: the Makebelieve World’, he became fascinated with the relationship that Parrish (one of his favorite painters) had with his “muse”.

The first two lines of the second chorus refer to Parrish’s painting “Ecstasy”.

Heart in the Hand of the Matter


Ride the apocalypse
Coming through the city side
Fallen angel no need to hide

All bodies collide and fate decides
Where vengeance hits
Where our love will fit

I can’t find your face
I can’t see a trace
In a world coming to a close

I’m so damned I can’t win
With my heart in my hands again
Take your hurt
A muse of sin
With my heart in my hands again

And this is where it began
Shot through a shattered lens
And there is virtue in loneliness
In vacant lots and florescent malls
In one room coffins and crowded halls

There is nothing to be done
We have lost all control
I walk in the shadows of your tortured realm

I’m so damned
I can’t win
With my heart in my hands again
Take your hurt
A muse of sin
Passing glance forgotten

Reason to doubt
So pry your eyes
From a film that never ends

I’m so damned
I can’t win
With my heart in my hands again

Ride the apocalypse
Coming through the city side
There is nowhere to hide
Ride the apocalypse
Fallen angel nowhere to hide


Reece’s inspiration for several of his lyrics at this time was the films of Asian director Wong Kar Wai.

This particular lyric makes reference to the film Fallen Angels, and the relationship the protagonist of the movie has with his accomplice (“muse of sin”), set against the backdrop of the “sordid and surreal urban nightscape” (quote from IMDB).



Rolling thunder
Like a voice that commands
Rain drops fall
Like the blood from your hands

Pray to God
But I doubt that he’s listening
This world is a gutter
That he likes to piss in


Millions of people
Quietly sleep
Dreaming of deserts
As the puddles grow deep

Dark clouds of rage
Black out the sun
The rivers will run
Red with their blood

No place left dry
No place of shelter for which to run
People huddle in mass
Waiting for the storm to pass
But it’s just begun

Millions of people
All of you people
Dream of the sandman
But the sandman has turned to mud

Rain falling down
Is this another great flood?
The rivers are running
Red with our blood


Another Busch composition, for which very little background on its inspiration was ever given. Monsoon season in India typically takes place between June and December. During his time at University of Texas Busch studied sitar and ethnomusicology.

Recently Keely heard this song come on at a club, and for the first time was able to appreciate how much it owes to the band Suicide. It is another song he enjoys listening to because it doesn’t sound like a Trail of Dead song.

Days of Being Wild


All sewn up
Pull out the seams
Take your call
Your voice is static
Far from my reach
I burn the page
Images are blurred
Am I afraid?

Around my throat
You came so close
To stopping me
Alive in jail, alive and well
I cannot leave
Innocent accident

Find my pulse
Trapped in a locked box
Teeth in a grind
All night amphetamine
Noise to the tape
Comes like a shattered beast
Cast a shade
Your mouth destroys me

Come down dawn in one piece
Come down dawn to find some peace
Driven to shambles on a tip
I never said that I would quit
And the next song takes over


Another Wong Kar Wai reference. According to Reece: “Gripped and fascinated by Wong Kar Wai’s film about tragic relationships, I used the film Days of Being Wild as a template of inspiration. In my song we encounter a person who feels trapped by the world around them or possibly trapped in a doomed romance. All this is up for interpretation, much like the film, which avoids strict narrative to tell the story of a group of young folks who find themselves trapped by their own destructive whims.”

Like many Trail songs, a movie was involved.

Relative Ways


It’s hard to imagine, it’s so hard to perceive
To find an expression for what it all means
All panic and struggle, all death and decay
Are coming together in relative ways

This electric guitar hanging to my knees
A couple of verses I can barely breathe
But it’s all right, it’s o.k.
It’s coming together in relative ways

It’s okay, I’m a saint
I forgave your mistakes

It’s started to happen, it’s started to change
With the movement up on us, hope we make it o.k.
If it takes a life or a couple of days
It’s coming together in relative ways

This electric guitar hanging to my knees
A couple of verses I can barely breathe
But it’s all right, it’s o.k.
It’s coming together in relative ways

It’s okay, I’m a saint
I forgave your mistakes


This song was written as a sort of pep-talk to the band, in the third week of recording the album. At that point things were getting rather tense and emotionally draining. Keely wanted to write something of an assurance to himself an his band mates that they would pull through.

The title was an unconscious reference to a Pink Floyd lyric from the song ‘Time’, “The sun is the same in a relative way, but you’re older”.

The line “I forgave your mistakes” was not intended towards anyone in particular, and Keely claims they were actually written with himself in mind, the idea being one of self-forgiveness.

The song was picked as the lead single, which prompted the making of a video co-directed by Keely. Like so many Trail of Dead projects, the making of the video was bogged down by drama, not within the band itself, but between the main director Bruce Dickson and the Hollywood production company. The hours wasted by them on petty bickering forced Keely, without any prior experience, to edit the video with the help of an assistant. The end product speaks volumes on the dubious results of the process.

Source Tags And Codes


This city has lost a certain hold inside
It feels so worn being chained here to this life
I’ve been around and seen one hundred scenes
Where those who dare to tread the wheel
One day find out what’s behind that hill

Spend half a life deciding what went wrong
Trying to find out what took you so long
Until you feel it’s all part of some crazy scheme
It conjures in you memories ’til
You discover what’s behind the hill

You picked me up and we went for a drive
Into the stained glass cavern of the night
You turn to say, your eyes fixed on the rows
Take me from this place I know
The ruined landscape that I once called home

I don’t know what in this world is trying to save me
But I can feel its hand and it’s guiding me in sign
From the lives I’ve tried to lead
To the one that I received
Each painted sign along the road
Will melt away in source tags & in code


The final song on the album was also the last song written. The inspiration was a poem Keely had written earlier that year while on tour, called Drive.

The poem, written in ballad form, told the story of a farm boy who’d moved from the rural farm lands south of Chicago (the band were driving north to Chicago at the time he was writing), to the big city, where he discovered himself being stripped of his identity and becoming a cog in the system, or a mere number.

The title refers to HTML jargon, and several computer folk have pointed out that the proper term would be “Source Codes and Tags”, which strangely enough, is how people often erroneously refer to the album.

The original seed for the song was the instrumental refrain in 3/4 timing that Kevin Allen originally came up with.

The lyrics included in the album booklet contain a typo in the first line, and reads “a certain holds inside”.