Worlds Apart

Worlds Apart

‘Worlds Apart’, loved by some critics and hated by fans of the band’s previous record, was intended as a reaction against radio music at that time. The band has often admitted that it was overly-ambitious, and that too much time was wasted trying to get the drums of the first song right. It might be worth pointing out that people who had not heard the previous album—and therefore did not suffer any preconceived notions—liked the album just fine.

Pitchfork gave the album a 4, and dubbed Keely “the world’s most terrible singer” (the same writer was later obliged to resign from Pitchfork after fabricating a cover story, such is this fickle industry).

 

Ode to Isis (Overture)

Lyrics

Isis, Horus, Rha, Set!

Annotations

Four Gods from the Egyptian pantheon. A couple of ToD lyrics contain references to the god Isis (‘Novena Without Faith’, ‘Isis Unveiled’). However, as far as the band can tell, none of the references have much to do with the other.

In Babylonian mythology, the goddess Isis finds her counterpart in Ishtar, and her day of celebration is traditionally the Spring equinox, which Roman Christian religion turned into ‘Easter’ in an attempt to consolidate power during the empire’s decline.

Will you Smile Again

Lyrics

Close the door and drift away
Into a sea of uncertainty
Where all your hopes and dreams
Have faded out of reach.
Remember all the bad dreams
Are not far from reality
Would you write again for me?

(Let me whisper something in your ear…)

And you awake and there you are
Not far off from the line before
And just how long did it take for you to understand
Where your feelings stopped and writing began
Convince yourself to take control
Play to the hilt this unlikely role.

Remember all the bad dreams
Are not far from reality
Will you write again for me?
And who bade you stop this living art?
Have you forgotten just what you are?
If you don’t want to then you could at least pretend
That the paper’s your soul and your blood’s in the pen
And maybe then you’d see the light
And read the truth that you had to write.

If heaven sent you downstream
Where banished eyes haven’t been
Would you smile again for me?
You misread your fate line
And long run out ahead of time
Would you write again for me?

And you awake and there you are
Not far off from the line before

And just how long did it take for you to understand
Where your feelings stopped and writing began
Convince yourself to take control
Play to the hilt this unlikely role.

If heaven sent you downstream
Where banished eyes haven’t been
Would you smile again for me?

Annotations

The inspiration behind this song came when Keely heard the news that Brian Wilson was finally going to release his official version of the never-released Beach Boys album ‘Smile’. The song refers to the painful struggle of the creative process, and the need of the artist to stay true to their vision. It also refers to Wilson’s psychological struggles with composition.

The instrumental opening of the song was inspired by the overture to ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’, and also from a guitar riff that Keely stole from a friends’ band called the Soft. He heard them play the song one night, but never heard it again. The riff stuck and he eventually asked their permission to use it.

Worlds Apart

Lyrics

Random lost souls have asked me
“What’s the future of rock’n'roll?”
I say, “I don’t know does it matter?”
This and that scene,
They sound all the same to me
Neither much worse nor much better

We’re so fucked these days
We don’t know who to hate or who to praise
Yet we consider this our suffering and pain
When we’re so privileged, a fact
We all forget about as
We go whinging all over the place.

How we’ve laughed as they shoveled the ashes
Wrath hath soured

Blood and death, we will pay back the debt
For this candy store of ours.

Look at those cunts on MTV
With their cars, and cribs, and rings and shit
Is that what being a celebrity means?
Look, boys and girls, here’s BBC
See corpses, rapes, and amputees
What do you think now of your American dream?

And our soccer moms and dads
Who raised us brats on these TV ads
I know that they sleep at night
Their conscience is intact
They’ve convinced themselves of that
Giving money to Jesus Fucking H Christ

How they laughed as we shoveled the ashes
Of the twin towers

Blood and death, we will pay back the debt
For this candy store of ours.

Annotations

Although the lyrics of this song are so clear that Keely never felt any need to explain them, the title refers to an American reality TV show.

‘Words Apart’ was a show that ran on National Geographic Channel, where each week a different American family was sent to a different part of the world to live with an indigenous native family (Mongolian nomads, Trobriand islanders, etc.). The lyrics were a commentary on the spoiled and entitled attitudes that the American families not always, but often displayed when confronted with a culture in which they had to, for instance, kill the animal they ate for dinner.

The Summer of ’91

Lyrics

Lying on the shady grass
Afternoon, there’s always something happening
Friends go floating gently by
I’m listening to a song inside my head
Although the summer’s past
Those mythic dreams would never last
Nor do I care anymore
And if it makes you sad
Remember all the things you have
That can’t be bought

Recollection brings me back
Sad to think that it was just a fantasy
We’d already accepted that
Which many others struggled to believe
And though it makes no sense
I know there are no accidents
I’ve no fear anymore
And if it makes you sad
To give up dreams you’ve always had
That can’t be caught
It just can’t be fought.

Looking back at ’91
Reflecting on those things we could have
Said and done
The dancing lights across a crowd
Remind us of another town
That’s dead and gone
It’s just dead and gone

Take me to that summer past
And tell me is it really worth remembering?
I realize that music then
Was really just a song in my head
And though the fun has past
Those mythic dreams would never last
Have no fear anymore
And if it makes you cry
To look ahead well dry your eyes
It can be done
Yes, it can be done.

Annotations

This song, as the title suggests, is about the summer of 1991, when Keely and Reece lived in Olympia, Washington. That year Olympia hosted the International Underground Pop Festival, and the two Trailies were exposed to a wave of new bands and inspirations.

The line about lying on shady grass is a reference to Sylvester Park, in the heart of downtown Olympia, a popular hang out spot, and also where Keely first saw the first live performance of the band Bikini Kill, which became a major source of inspiration.

The sentiment of the last verse is one that he has often tried to express, that nostaligia is a waste of time, and one ought to try to look forward to a time when music is better, and not backwards. It was partly directed to a friend of the band, Tom “the Lithuanian” Kenstowicz, who often asked Keely, “You remember the summer of ’91, what a great time that was for music?”

The Rest Will Follow

Lyrics

How can anyone be so unkind
As to want to take another’s peace of mind?
Is acceptance so implausible?

Well I know how the best will fall
And the rest will follow.

It’s important to recognize
In this world we live there is nothing worth dying
It’s enough to say “hello, we’re all human”

But I know how the best will fall
And the rest will follow

Is it so easy to resign
To ruin this world for everyone?
I guess when it’s all said and done
It’s just something in our design.

We are all of us so capable of
The greatest acts of hate and the worst acts of love
I wonder sometimes what’s the matter with us all
And I know how the best will fall
And the rest will follow…

Annotations

The middle eight refrain of this song was inspired by the song ‘Gymnast High Above the Ground’ by the band the Decemberists, who Keely had seen play a small show at Emo’s earlier that year. “Something in your eyes” became “It’s just something in our design”.

‘The Rest Will Follow’ was known as the song with the worst video ever made, until a video was made for ‘Naked Sun’. The reason for this is not worth investigating, but the band would not deny that it was fun getting dressed up for.

This video did have the result of the band refusing to be in their video for Naked Sun.

The band was proud of the use of a sample of a seagull cry in the second chorus, and the successful blend of two drum parts played by Jason and Doni.

Caterwaul

Lyrics

Eyes at night never see the day
Because it’s not in my nature
Golden wings rise from the plane
They burn above the red earth
Scale these walls in front of me
Have you ever stopped to wonder
Why they forced your voice to turn
From silence to a caterwaul?

Never knew I could feel this way
So old and and unremembered
Never thought it would slip away
And fall like September
Scale these walls in front of me
Have you ever stopped to wonder
Why they forced my voice
To turn from silence to a caterwaul?
Heard your caterwaul…

And what has tried to bound me
I’ve severed every tie
Place your arms around me
And we’ll leave the rest behind

What was I to say?
How was I to know?
Was it your soft voice that said so?

Annotations

This song actually did have a decent video, which it ought to be mentioned was made by students with no actual budget to speak of. This might lead one to draw many conclusions about management of funds at major labels.

In an extras DVD documentary that came out for the album there is a scene of Keely and Reece working on the lyrics for this song around a piano. That scene was actually staged, and the lyrics had in reality been co-written during a failed attempt to scale Everest, while recuperating at the first base camp.

A Classic Arts Showcase

Lyrics

White glow of the TV set
Lights dancing on the screen
Voice-overs rise like minarets
Then fall diatonically.
Should I answer a friend’s distress call
Or should I go to sleep?
Would I, like the voices rise and fall,
What’s it to me?

All those hours of wasted time
Have never passed my mind.

Here I am comfortable
In arm’s reach of the black remote.
Here I am comfortable
Surrounded by stings and bows.
Let everyone else go.

Nights on Kirkwood so serene
Far from the sirens and the screams
I could write or I could read
Go next door and smoke some weed
As long as I don’t have to think
About who the hell’s running this mess
Or what shit they’re writing up the ‘Stone or NME
Go out and make last call
Or sit here and do nothing at all
What’s it to me?

All those hours of wasted time
Have never passed my mind.

Here I am comfortable
In arm’s reach of the black remote.
Here I am comfortable
All those clowns, what can they know?
Let everyone else go.

Annotations

‘A Classic Arts Showcase’ is the name of a show on public access television in America, of all places, that features videos for classical music. It was actually the program Keely had been watching when he first spotted a video EPK for the violinist Hilary Hahn. This prompted him to ask for an introduction during one of her concerts, at which he brought up the possibility of her playing on the album.

Keely still owns several hours of VHS tape he recorded of the show, containing all of his favorite classical music videos.

The song riff, in 7/8 time signature, was inspired by—if not completely plagiarized from—the Genesis song ‘Dance on a Volcano’.

The song itself is, Keely admits, one of the most auto-biographical of his compositions. It refers simply to his love at the time of staying home and practicing viola and cello (“strings and bows”), instruments he had picked up while recording Secret of Elena’s Tomb, when the large American music instrument franchise Mars Music went out of business and sold off their student instruments for very cheap. The melody and lyric for the “strings and bows” line was partly inspired by the recording of the song “Buttons and Bows” by Dinah Shore.

Although to “fall diatonically” would mean to descend along a major scale, Keely had originally intended to evoke the idea of “falling chromatically” — that is, by half steps. However in the end it was decided that this didn’t sing well.

Kirkwood, mentioned in the second verse, is the street in Austin that Keely lived on at the time, located in a very serene and placid neighborhood. The line about the NME refers to an unflattering review the magazine had given the band (after having spent a year or so building them up to be the saviors of rock music, as British press are seemingly wont to do). Although no particular animosity was meant towards the Rolling Stone magazine, their sheer domination of music journalism for an inordinately long time did provide an obvious target.

“Who the hell’s running this mess” refers to George W. Bush, president at the time.

In Austin, “last call” for drinks at most bars is anywhere between 1:30 a.m. and 2 a.m. Often times the band would record during the day, and rush out to be downtown for last call, much to the despair of the band’s producer. Trail of Dead have since learned better work ethics (and so, they hope, has their former producer).

The “black remote” is a reference to the television remote control, but Keely also intended it as a double-entendre to the idea of the “remote” in consciousness. This idea came from a misunderstanding of a line from Star Wars in which Han Solo refers to the “remote” that Luke Skywalker is practicing with under the guidance of Obi-Wan Kenobi. Han Solo remarks, “Good against a remote is one thing, but good against a living…?”

Let It Dive

Lyrics

Now that our ties are severed
As we say goodbye
Let us not wonder whether

We are ready to take the dive

Let it dive, let it die, let it fade out of sight
Let it drag us down, let it fade

Grieve, but not grieve together
Mourn with nothing to say
Gone are those times forever
Lost as those sweet warm other days

Let it dive, let it die, let it fade out of sight
Let it drag us down, let it come between you and I
Let it dive, let it die, let it fade

Where we born to despair
Deeds done but not forgiven?
There will always be something there
As long as one of us goes on living

Let it dive, let it die

Let it fade out of sight
Let it drag us down, let it come between you and I
What’s done is done, no reason to apologize
Let it dive, let it die, let it fade

Annotations

Let it Dive was spawned from the chorus idea which popped magically into Keely’s head one day while he was crossing 6th Avenue in Austin after leaving Casino El Camino. The inspiration was undoubtedly the band Oasis, whose album ‘What’s the Story Morning Glory’ he’d been obsessed with. However, he’d like to make clear that this was the only Oasis album he ever got into, as all the others failed to meet his expectations.

The song was meant as a sad farewell to a rather large cadre of old Austin friends from ’95 – ’97 who used to do everything together, but which by ’98 had all mostly moved away to different parts of the US. For Keely their departure signaled a new stage in his life, as well as the life of Austin, Texas.

An animated video had once been made for this song by film maker Divya Srinivasan, but for whatever reason was never properly coordinated and released. This is a shame, as it would have been the band’s only animated video, an unfulfilled dream they have entertained since childhood.

To Russia My Homeland (Instrumental)

Annotations

Keely wrote this instrumental piece as an assignment in his music class at Evergreen State College. The assignment was to write a “minuet”, and although this might technically qualify as something else, perhaps a “waltz”, he did get a decent evaluation from his teacher for the piece (Evergreen is one of the few schools in the US that does not grade students).

Hilary Hahn contributed a few ornaments to the violin line, but the arrangement and melody changed little from the original. It is interesting to point out that during the string overdub session in Brooklyn several of the New York string players, upon hearing the track, jokingly quipped “It sounds like Hilary Hahn,” without any prior knowledge of her involvement in the recording.

All White

Lyrics

The curtain thins
Violins announce the score is over
The symphony dears the folded chairs
And walk towards the snack bar
And I forget what the libretto was all about

At eight o’clock you drop me off
And not a word was spared for us
Drinks at ten, we’re off again
The crowds and bouncers stare at us
And the last one out of the car fills the meter up
Don’t say your name, just dance with me
Oh no, my ride is gone it’s time to leave
Then racing for the sink
I shove my head in

And the world looks like heaven
It’s all white

Annotations

Another song in which Keely attempted to conjure up the decadent bar culture of Austin that permeated the band’s life at the time. The lyrics refer to a specific evening during which he accompanied an ex-girlfriend to an Austin Lyric Opera performance of Verdi’s Aida, after which she dropped him off at home and he immediately went down town to dance and get drunk.

Several Austinite friends have pointed out that in Austin it is unnecessary to put money in parking meters after 5 p.m., which renders that particular line fallacious, unless it is referring to 10 in the morning which, although possible due to the prevalence of cocaine in Austin clubs, is highly unlikely.

The Best

Lyrics

The mime’s conceit has conquered over real beauty
Grinning from a mask of hollowed bone
Where a human is somewhere to be found
But where I don’t know
And things couldn’t be better
From behind the halls we cannot pass
Hear the muffled traces of a boyish laugh
Hear the monster screaming “what have I become?”

Before his looking-glass
And things couldn’t be better
This is one fine life
This is one fine wine
This is one fine wife
This is one fine lie
And things couldn’t be better
They are the best

Annotations

Admittedly one of the most disturbing pieces in the band’s repertoire, the lyrics were a reference to Michael Jackson and the strange goings-on at the Neverland Ranch, the “looking glass” being an allusion to the song ‘Man in the Mirror’. At the time Keely stated that the song was not so much about the pop star’s rumored transgressions involving underage boys, so much as the plastic surgery that had turned him into a human abomination. Since the pop singers death people have chosen to focus on the more positive aspects of his career, quite likely out of a sense of guilt most of them feel for condemning him for so long.

The song was originally written by James Olsen, a friend of the band, in freshman year of high school in Hawaii, c. 1986. Keely rewrote the lyrics and added the “one fine life” refrain.

The Lost City of Refuge

Lyrics

With history, your bluest grace
Falls apart, cascading down
Speak to me of beautiful hate
Of island chains swept with the tide
The coral leis of a conquering king

They’re swept away
Oh, but not lost.

Beneath the waves of trembling stars

The roads wind towards
The windward side
My soul is saved by these city lights
My face is framed by the blanket of night

They’re swept away
Oh, but not lost.

Was I too proud to say, or to wish for
Words that I knew were forbidden?

Because I don’t want to know
I didn’t want to see what I saw
When I looked in the distance

They’re swept away
Oh, but not lost.

Annotations

The song and its title refer to the Cities of Refuge to be found on the Big Island of Hawaii, where Reece grew up. Cities of Refuge were places that allowed natives condemned for various crimes to seek sanctuary from punishment, most likely death.

The song also contains references to the Pali Highway on Oahu where Keely lived, which connects Honolulu to the windward side of the island. The lyrics were co-written by the two, inspired by their childhood home and its ongoing struggle for sovereignty, a cause (some might deem futile due to the island’s strategic military value to the United States) which Keely’s stepfather Eric Kane is directly involved with. In 1990, after staging several sit-in demonstrations on the Island of Kaho’olawe, Kane and other members of the Hawaii First orgnization succeeded in compelling the US military to stop using the island for a bombing ground. Credit for this was hastily awarded to George Bush Sr.

Coral leis are actually quite rare and not typically traditional. It is far more common to find leis made of shells or bird feathers; although today most people associate them with flower leis of the variety often presented to tourists.