Aggression has earned a bad name in the post-rap/rock era, with the profusion of supplement-chugging linebackers all but driving sly attitude mongers from the scene. Bubbling under the charts, however, there’s an expanding array of slingshot-sporting brainiacs taking aim at what looms above, and one of the more interesting bands from that gene pool is And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead. At the first of two sold-out New York shows, the band from Austin, Texas, leaped into the fray, showing off a plethora of moves — from the feedback slashes of “Homage” and “Richter Scale Madness” to the galvanizing singalong choruses of “Relative Ways” and “Monsoon” (both culled from the new Interscope CD “Source Tags and Codes”).
This literate-but-lissome foursome cobbles together angular post-punk guitar squall, hard-core apoplexy and post-millennial coolness with elan. Reece, Keely and Busch split microphone duties pretty evenly, with subtle differences — Busch’s hangdog wail sets off Keely’s shamanic declarations — that didn’t detract from the unified sound. The members’ perpetual motion, including plenty of somersaults and guitar-toting stage dives, didn’t result in all that many bungled notes, which is pretty significant given the prog-rock complexity of most songs.
Admittedly, some of the band’s situationist shtick is fast approaching its expiration date: Band-audience beer fights, once spontaneous, are now announced as carefully as any World Wrestling Federation event. And the much discussed equipment trashing that ends each set — still punctuated with cathartic sights like spiraling drum heads — has lost some oomph since the appearance of a guitar-tech cleanup crew.
Fellow Texans Those Peabodys opened the show with a flourish. The quartet, who looked like castoffs from “That ’70s Show,” waded into MC5-styled agit rock with an eye on the ghost of soul stirrers past (as evidenced by a soaring cover of “River Deep, Mountain High”).
And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead plays the El Rey Theater in Los Angeles April 5.