The Century of Self

The Century of Self

The band’s second album, and first independent release off Interscope Wreckerds, was done in collaboration with Superball Music in Germany, and the now-defunct Justice Records of Texas.

Although the writing of the album had taken an optimistic turn, the recording was mired by typical melodrama as their former producer Mike McCarthy held their tapes hostage for several weeks, refusing to allow them to continue work. With the help and gentlemanly good grace of their old friend Chris ‘Frenchie’ Smith, the band continued to record onto rough mixes of the album at the Bubble Studios, then finished the project in New York under the calm guidance and supervision of Chris Coady.

Even after the final recordings, several of the mixes had to be redone by Coady, after he’d completed a prior engagement. The first mastering attempt by Howard Weinstien (who had mastered Source Tags) was also unanimously rejected and had to be done by another mastering house. In the end, it was quite a miracle the album was completed at all.

 

Giant’s Causeway (Instrumental)

 

Annotations

The instrumental overture was named after a natural formation of basalt columns in Northern Ireland which tradition and legend associated with Merlin the magician, who recruited the help of local giants to build a bridge to England. Why the Irish would want a bridge to England is open to speculation, but one reason might have been to allow Cromwell to come over and murder them by the tens of thousands in retribution for a long-forgotten soccer match.

The piece was originally entitled ‘The Betrayal of Roger Casement and the Irish Brigade’ after a book written by Keely’s great-grandfather Sean Kavenagh, who had been a gun runner for the Irish Brigade, an early forerunner to the Irish Republican Army. Although listed as such on the Festival Thyme EP, Keely changed the name for the album to avoid any political connotations. The book, an account of Kavenagh’s time spent in a German POW camp, remains unpublished due to disputes among Keely’s Irish relatives over the controversial nature of the subject matter.

The piece itself was inspired by a band from Chicago called… Oh, I forget their name already. But they’re pretty good, you should check them out.

The Far Pavillions

Lyrics

New Horizons, unclaimed lands
Await us beyond the walls of our cantonment
I’ll return to the Far Pavilions
You can’t let it get you down
You were raised on the edge

Of this unnamed ghost town
There, a million far pavilions

Gaze down from up on their heights
Where their eyes, full of wonder wait to greet you
As you rise, feel the world you know divided up
Above and below

Let the roads lead you back
To those places you lived

Brick fields full of cut glass
Where the sidewalks strangled you
As you cradled your friend as he died from a gun wound
Past love and hatred lies our greatness

Annotations

Inspired by the book of the same title by M.M. Kaye about a wedding procession through parts of northern India (now Pakistan). The book takes place during the “Big Game”, a cold-war of sorts between Britain and Russia in which the two countries engaged in a war of attrition, using Afghanistan as battle ground and buffer zone. Sound familiar?

The song, along with ‘Giant’s Causeway’, was written and recorded in New York after the dramatic events involving McCarthy and the tapes.

Isis Unveiled

Lyrics

I have made you in my likeness
And I will make you the keeper of my garden world
If you honor me in kind, I’ll be grateful, but be warned

I’m a jealous God
Who placed the demons in hell
And the angels in heaven
At my side

So set me free, I’ll grant your hearts desire
And I will share the secrets of the grand design
Give me daughters, send me sons and I’ll make them all chosen ones
I will send them out to die

To meet the angels of death
With no tears, no regrets
I was cast down from the heights

My blood must pay for the debt
That was made when they left
Because of me

And if they taste the blood we’ll let them drink
And if they taste the flesh we’ll let them eat

And if one has to be forgiven then we’ll pardon all of them
And if they raze our walls we’ll let them in
And if they raise their swords we’ll let them hit
And if one has to be forgiven then
We’ll pardon all of them

Let me lead you to the garden world
I will place you at the right of my father’s hand
I was tempted in the wild I crossed from start till end of time

I emerged the sacred lamb
Whose blood must pay for the debt

That was made when they left
As I ascend into the sky I’ll free the angels from hell
And place them in heaven
At my side

Annotations

Also inspired by a book, the title refers to Madam Blavatsky’s spiritual manifesto, which Keely had grown up acquainted with. Keely’s father Eric Kane was a spiritual minister, and introduced him to Isis Unveiled and many similar texts at a young age. The book is a criticism of science and religion, and how they both fall short of spirituality, yet both contain elements of truth, if they would somehow see fit to meet in the middle.

The lyrics themselves took Keely a rather long time to write, and toy with an idea once held by the Marcionites, a heretical early Christian sect who expounded a doctrine of dualis — the belief that there were two gods. Marcion held that the wrathful Old Testament Judaic god was a separate being from the all-forgiving God preached by Jesus Christ.

Keely took the lyrics a step further to include a second verse from the POV of Lucifer, inspired by the by Phillip Pullmans’ His Dark Materials trilogy, in which an old, dying God is overthrown by a host of revolutionary angels.

The line “Pardon all of them” was inspired by the song ‘Pardon Up Here’ by the band Berntholer.

Halcyon Days

Lyrics

There, but for the grace of our Gods go you and I
Down roads none dare to follow
Sands buried the graves of our former lives
Smile and wave and let them go
To rise above the mires of old days long died
Know they won’t come again
Let the years roll in and drown our yesterdays

Time is a stream with no end in sight

As dark as it is cold
Flowing by as we pray for the source to run dry
That we may never grow old
We long to rest our tired bones by our fires
And drink to the days
Let the years roll in and drown our yesterdays

Born on our knees we all long
For a fawn to sooth and calm

And with our arrows bring her down

Here, let me rest in your loft for a while
Before I have to walk home
Through the streets bathed in the light
Of a thousand fires
Of a cold and angry world
In time we’ll reconcile with old days long died
Know they won’t come again

Let the years roll in, drown our yesterdays

Annotations

Keely wrote this song with his girlfriend in mind when the two of them moved together to Brooklyn, NY. The lyrics were a celebration of leaving Austin, a town that had become too full of old acquaintances. The song upheld the sentiment expressed by Greta Garbo, that New York was the only place she could be feel truly alone.

The “Born on our knees” refrain is one of the oldest pieces of music by Keely used for a Trail song, written for a previous band with James Olsen during Keely’s first year in college.

Bells of Creation

Lyrics

I was standing on the shore, facing an open sea
I was listening to the sound of the waves breaking

And I thought of all the words that they were whispering
And it kept changing

I was standing in the midst of a great company
Listening to the voices in ecstasy
And I watched as all creation was sang into being
And it kept changing
And it was changing

And all at once I caught a pulse and felt a rhythm

And I thought of the song of the ages
Then the balance slipped and opened up the season
And I felt like raging

I was staring at the clouds, the rain began to fall softly
Filling up the rivers in Texas
And I thought of you and maybe you once thought of me
We were changing
And we kept changing

And all at once I saw a hole into the future
And I thought of the bells of creation
I heard the voice of God coming in the music
And I felt like Satan
and I felt like Satan

We were standing on the shore, facing an open sea
Listening the sound of the waves breaking
And I turned to you and said we should never leave

But we changed…

Annotations

Although the music was initially inspired by the first time Keely saw the band School of Seven Bells, the lyrics were actually inspired by an American Experience documentary he’d seen on PBS about Mormonism. He was struck by Joseph Smith’s account of being given the Book of Mormon by angels, and describing the sounds of a “theophony”. The account reminded him of an idea he’d often toyed with, that if music follows mathematical principles, and if mathematics are universal, then perhaps music from other planets might not be so alien to our ears as one might imagine.

Taking this metaphor one step further in the spirit of the Hermetical teaching “As above, so below,” led Keely to speculate upon the nature of heavenly music. The line “I felt like Satan” had originally been written “I felt like Cain then.”

The last line was inspired by a trip that Keely and his girlfriend took to Uruguay, jogging along the piers of Montevideo.

Fields of Coal

Lyrics

Well I had a dream that I received a prophecy
Predictions and vision to be written by me

But I didn’t want them to come true, I was afraid
So I decided to run away
But what could I run to, where could I go?
If I showed my face, all the angry prophets would know
I ran into the wilderness, ran into the cold
I screamed why, oh why did I ever run away?

Don’t disturb those fields of coal
For they may turn to gold

And if they break you, don’t let them run away
With your soul

Knights in white lighting shot out of the remote
They said stand and be reckoned, I begged please, let me go
They said uh-uh, no way, you’ve gotta come true
We can’t let you run away

Don’t disturb those fields of coal
For they may turn to gold

And if they break you, don’t let them run away
With your soul

I had a dream that I was an alien
And in a ship of white diamond I was encircling the sun
But the ship lost control, I got too close, and I couldn’t turn away
The force of its gravity sucked me right in
But it didn’t burn solid like the other suns did
Inside was a stage and they wanted me to play

I screamed why, oh why? Would you just let me run away?

Don’t disturb those fields of coal
For they may turn to gold
And if they break you, don’t let them run away
With your soul

Annotations

According to Keely the only song written while on tour, the chords and lyrics came to him during the Pukelpop Festival in Belgium whilst listening to the sound of Sonic Youth’s set blaring in the background while he sat alone on the bus.

The vocal delivery was inspired by Patti Smith’s song Birdland. The last verse expresses his struggle with stage exhaustion, which often causes him to spend the minutes before performing catching up on sleep.

Inland Sea

Lyrics

Stay calm, stay calm
Relax your limbs gently float to earth

Hear the laughing of the Inland Sea
And know your mind is where you’re meant to be

Wake up, wake up
Remind yourself exactly who you were

Is the price you’ve paid to live this little dream
Worth the pain you’ve been suffering?

The only way out is to go up

Take up your arms
Prepare yourself to face the whole world

Don’t ask your friends for faith or company
They’re none of them who they pretend to be

Annotations

A song about meditation, the inland sea refers to a level of consciousness deeper than the subconscious.

Luna Park

Lyrics

It hit my mind, it came to me
In order to live it’s got to be freed

And all I want
Is this grace undone
It’s haunting my head now
Like a prodigal son

Like a dog tired sage
You know I couldn’t wait
I want to set this place a flame
Frame by frame

A lingering vision burning my memory
A scorching scene dying by the sea

Like a dog tired sage
You know I couldn’t wait

To set this place aflame
Frame by frame

It didn’t take long
To see it gone
Look at what I’ve done
I’ve seen it, want to feed it
Burn it down and just free it
I need it now

I need you right now

Night descends, the fires rage
Through the morning light

Annotations

Reece was inspired by a story he’d read of an amusement park in New Jersey that had been the subject of several arsons before finally being abandoned. It struck him as a metaphor for the act of destroying the things we love most.

Pictures of an Only Child

Lyrics

Bright all the eyes of the family on the other side

From an only child for the first fourteen years of life
All the pictures they were never seen and never heard from

I’m standing with Eric and Mom outside of Taj Mahal
When I grow up I’ m gonna be a writer and a movie star
I’ve a picture of dad here sitting, hair down to the ground
Bright all the eyes of the family now dead and gone

We’ve played games of fate and chance
We were caught and made to dance

Sold our souls to slavery
Lost our way and prayed for death

I took the pictures and the camera, dropped them in the sand
I wore a Mickey Mouse hat on that day, Disneyland
I was crying at the camera, lying about my life
Bright all the eyes of the family, bright all the eyes

We’ve played games of fate and chance
We were caught and made to dance

Sold our souls to slavery
Lost our way and prayed for death

Bright all the eyes of the family on the other side

Annotations

Another early song of Keely’s, the lyrics were written soon after he and Reece moved to Austin, and before they had formed Trail of Dead. The song was an expression of his remorse over the fact that he had spent most of his life estranged not just from his father, but from the families of both his parents. The lyrics reference specific photos from his photo album. The first line of the second verse refers to a photograph he took with his mother and step-father Eric Kane during a trip to India when he was eight years old.

Insatiable (One)

Lyrics

Curse this insatiable weakness of us

Close where all severs aside

Douse our sensations
As deep as they are

Born in the blink of an eye
Born in the blink of an eye

Love deviates from the plans that we’re on
Flinging us soft to the side

Find ourself broken
And all friends are gone

Caught in the blink of an eye
Caught in the blink of an eye

Annotations

Insatiable had been written for a vampire movie called The Insatiable. A friend in Hollywood suggested Keely try to get a song onto the soundtrack, and he wrote what he thought was something appropriately spooky and vampire-esque. Unfortunately the director wanted the movie to have a bluesy soundtrack, and the song was never used.

Ascending

Lyrics

From a crashing light
I was forced awake
Clutching bloodshot eyes
Wide & afraid

Stark impressions of a vague translucent day
Distorts the room in a lazy way
A stubborn case of the young man’s blues
Has gotten me scouring the streets for you

Where shattered souls and cheated hearts
Descent into a Bedlam of scars

Parading past ancestral skulls
through callused and bruised urban sprawls
Hot sweat pours down a sunlit road
where life and death meet and explode
What can’t be ignored and can’t be explained
I captured in a song’s refrain

Each fear I forced on to a page
I read the word and choked with rage

After the war we left the dead on the shore
But their screams and cries still haunt us wherever we go
Our little boat caught in the ebb and the flow
on the seas of wine where time has but forgotten us

Donde está el oro, donde están los heroes?
Donde estaba el dia del sol para ellos?

Where is the gold? Where are all our heroes?
Where is that day of sun that we have waited on?

Thrown by the wreck into the Eye of the Storm
We cling to life though the gods have all abandoned us

Forced to be in the wrong place
Being forced to fit being forced to taste
misguided moments I was caught
by the sound of a bell on a police car

The scars, fresh upon my hands
The child emerges a new born man
Vandals, Martyrs, ragged purist stands
Eyes wide like saucers rake the land

Annotations

Unfortunately, Ascending was the track that probably suffered the most from the numerous setbacks which plagued the making of the album. In the end the band were not able to spend the desired time making the track everything they had hoped, and a rather sluggish version made it onto the record.

Reece composed the music for the verses, and Keely contributed the middle-eight. The lyrics, co-written by both, are a celebration of their imperfect teenhood on the island of Oahu during the 80′s, when adolescent youth were expected to fill their non-curricular time playing sports or at the beach. Instead the two boys spent much of their time shoplifting, scoring drugs, and vandalizing public buildings and private residences.

The writing of the lyrics provided one of the fonder memories associated with the album, sitting on the bench outside the Bubble Studio tracking room, beneath the warm sun, accompanied by the pleasant sounds of traffic running along 45th and Red River.

Insatiable (Two)

Lyrics

Mourn as a nation, rule as a mob
Kill for an insult so slight
The further they plummet, the blinder they are
Each one believing they’re right

I’m the monster and I exist
On this summit I am lost

On its slopes I’ve seen the world
As she was meant to be seen

Annotations

The last verse of Insatiable was intended from the point of view of the Orang Pendek, or Gigantopithacus, a cryptozoological animal believed to inhabit the jungles of Sumatra. It reflected a sorrowful observation made by the beast upon the folly of humankind. But in the end who cares, right? I mean, seriously.

The band managed to recruit the vocal help of the Brooklyn band Yeasayer for this section, out of admiration they had for the band’s first album ‘All Hour Cymbals’.