Consistently inconsistent, And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead makes exactly the kinds of albums it wants to, often to fans' bewilderment. Worlds Apart, from 2005, added epic orchestrations and more layers of weirdness (lyrics like "Isis / Horus / Ra / Seth"; fully fabricated backstories; heavily political leanings), giving up the direct gratification of 2002's roundly praised Source Tags & Codes in search of something grander.
As if fleeing chastisement, So Divided rushes in the opposite direction, moving lyrically toward more recognizable rock themes and musically toward the center. The first bits of the six-and-a-half-minute title track sound more like mid-'90s alt-rock than the work of a band known for ear-shattering live shows and Sonic Youth levels of mesmerism. (It builds, thankfully, to a stuttering climax.) "Naked Sun" takes it a step further—or back—building a simple blues riff into a relatively dull bit of soundtracking and guitar lickery.
But those missteps are mitigated and eventually outweighed by a pack of stunners, including a lush, unexpected, almost operatic cover of Guided By Voices' "Gold Heart Mountain Top Queen Directory," the rippingly old-school "Stand In Silence," and the tribal-inspired epic "Wasted State Of Mind," which weds jungle drums, creepy piano (courtesy of Dresden Dolls' Amanda Palmer), and absolutely no concession to pop constructs. It isn't the group's best song, but it paints the perfect Trail Of Dead picture: instantly hummable, insistently strange, and pleasantly, sometimes vexingly unpredictable.