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Divided and conquered 

... And you will know better than to offend a lead singer with low self-worth

click to enlarge If they look angry, its because they are.
  • If they look angry, its because they are.

You can't underestimate the power of not giving a fuck.

Tupac sang about it, Eminem backed him up and now Conrad Keely, lead singer and multi-instrumentalist of the post-rock act ... And You Will Know Us By The Trail of Dead, is talking about it.

His band's new album, So Divided, is nothing short of brilliant. But in order to fully understand what's going on with the songwriter (and thus appreciate his brilliance), we'll have to go back to ... And You Will Know's last studio effort, 2004's Worlds Apart.

Keely is still distraught when asked about that grandiose effort, the follow-up to the band's promising 2002 major-label debut, Source Tags & Codes. It received favorable press, but in the end, it wasn't embraced by the group's fans.

Not exactly the type of thing that does wonders for a man already lacking in self-esteem.

"I'm just concerned about how I feel about the big picture of music," Keely says. "I've come to question its relevance and its importance. I don't think that music is changing people's outlook. These days, I look around and see a lot of music being used almost as a form of denial that things are really serious in the world. And people would rather drink and party and fuck than actually deal with some of these issues."

Keely, with his latest effort, hopes to change this. Granted, there's a certain amount of ego associated trying to change the world one song at a time, but you can't help but feel there's some legitimacy to Keely's fight.

"I came out of a tradition of people that were really politically conscious Fugazi, Nirvana, all of these people really cared a lot about things," Keely says. "Now who are we looking at? We've got Wolfmother? What the fuck do they sing, "Woman'? I don't get what The Strokes are singing about. It just doesn't make any sense to me at all. I've completely lost touch with these people that I'm supposed to regard as my colleagues. They're totally way off track."

He sounds jaded, but his songwriting on So Divided is as sharp and tuneful as ever. And while song titles like "Naked Sun," "Wasted State of Mind" and "Sunken Dreams" depict his fragile mindset, material found among the album's 11 tunes harkens back to an earlier time: the early '90s underground scene, before Kurt Cobain's angst split the alternative rock atom.

As the band prepares to kick off its tour at the Gothic Theatre, Keely is hoping to redefine how the band sounds live. He acknowledges that one way to improve the band's concert performance which, in the past, often amounted to a cacophonic jam session is for him to abstain from any spirited beverages when on stage.

"Sober but not straight-edged," Keely says, offering a laugh.

... And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead, with The Blood Brothers, Celebration, and Brothers and Sisters

The Gothic Theatre, 3263 S. Broadway, Englewood

Friday, Oct. 27, 8 p.m.

Tickets: $17, 16-plus; visit nipp.com.

  • ... And you will know better than to offend a lead singer with low self-worth

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