Path Of Lifeless actually had been conscious issues might end up like this; hell, possibly they anticipated it. They weren’t included in Sellout, Dan Ozzi’s wonderful oral historical past of the last decade when pop-punk, emo, and hardcore bands had been getting scooped up with expectations of changing into the subsequent Nirvana or Inexperienced Day. Nonetheless, each sonically and chronologically, they may match proper in between the chapters devoted to At The Drive-In and Thursday.
However they didn’t need to look very far to seek out cautionary tales. At the moment, Austin wasn’t being thought of because the “subsequent Seattle,” but there was nonetheless sufficient proof of town being stripmined for expertise. “How come I really feel so washed up/ At such a young age?” Britt Daniel moaned on Women Can Inform, an album that rebooted Spoon’s profession after a disastrous stint on Elektra; mockingly, Women Can Inform was launched on Merge, the label that Path Of Lifeless would depart for Interscope. Then there was the case of Fastball, who really did have a few huge hits with 1998’s All The Ache That Cash Can Purchase. After that one went platinum, “Their second [album] was gold, and their third was, they had been off the label,” Keely groused.
No matter how a lot Path Of Lifeless wrestled with the ethics of going main, there was an upside that they merely couldn’t flip down — they may have the funds to report outdoors of Austin and all of its distractions and at last make an album that sounded nearly as good as they needed. The “esoteric artwork” of blending and mastering is actually completely important for one thing like Supply Tags & Codes and likewise the cause it impressed raves so fast and effusive that folks felt the necessity to apologize for them. The album desires to persuade you of its awesomeness from its very first second.
Opener “It Was There That I Noticed You” didn’t signify an inventive 180 like “Every thing In Its Proper Place” or “I Am Attempting To Break Your Coronary heart”; Path Of Lifeless had been workshopping it throughout their touring cycle for Madonna — a report some followers nonetheless argue is superior to Supply Tags & Codes. I acknowledge a sure “you needed to be there” factor to that take; having heard Supply Tags first, I’m struck by how a lot wider the distinction actually was between “indie rock” and “main label” again in 1999. Madonna is certainly required listening, albeit an album the place Path Of Lifeless had been solely starting to acknowledge what they had been able to capturing within the studio.
After a short valedictory buzz of static, each instrument instantly operates at peak velocity and quantity on “It Was There That I Noticed You.” To cite one other track produced by Mike McCarthy, all the things hits without delay. (Additionally, let’s simply take the time to acknowledge that, between Spoon’s Kill The Moonlight and Supply Tags & Codes, McCarthy labored on boh probably the most shockingly austere and probably the most gloriously over-the-top indie rock albums of 2002.) If the frequencies or the degrees had been off only a bit, “It Was There That I Noticed You” would’ve develop into an impenetrable brick wall or an vague blur. As a substitute, it comes on like a tidal wave or a wildfire — immersive, overwhelming, permeable and scalable. Supply Tags & Codes sounds unbelievable at modest workplace or headphone-friendly volumes and even higher if you happen to blast it in your automobile. However, man… play it on a boombox as loud as attainable in an open discipline — it’s fucking unbelievable.
The sound was in service of the emotion. Keely strove to recapture the sensation of residing (learn: ingesting and drugging) in Austin through the mid-Nineties, “earlier than America went to shit.” The unorthodox construction of “It Was There That I Noticed You,” often replicated elsewhere on Supply Tags & Codes, is modeled after the best way I keep in mind residing at an analogous age — unbridled bursts of impulse and infatuation, adopted by bottoming-out durations of regret and reflection, sorting via the spoils and carnage of what got here earlier than. The gorgeous components of Supply Tags & Codes are by no means simply fairly; they’re singed by suggestions and moaning strings, lasting lengthy sufficient for the stale smoke to clear and the beer cans to get picked up earlier than it occurs another time. The vocal components are both all rigidity, or all launch, or each. I’ve been conditioned to name drum fills like those right here “gratuitous,” however how can they be gratuitous after they’re completely needed? Whilst Path Of Lifeless redline all through, the track all the time sounds prefer it’s headed in the direction of a refrain that by no means comes. Everybody has their very own model of this time of their lives, a section of newfound autonomy to dwell teenage desires in an early-20s physique. It’s by no means sustainable, nevertheless it can final till the hangovers get too brutal or the realities of grownup obligation set in.
For probably the most half, individuals predisposed to this type of music understood Path Of Lifeless’s intent. “Their influences aren’t Berlin-era Bowie and New Order, not Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd, not Woody Guthrie and the Flying Burrito Brothers: they’re Sonic Youth, Fugazi, Drive Like Jehu, and Jawbox,” Pitchfork founder Ryan Schreiber wrote of Supply Tags & Codes, which positioned #3 of their 2002 year-end listing behind, notably, Wilco and Interpol. After itemizing off his web site’s formative bands, he concluded, “Once I hearken to it, I really feel as if I’m 15 years outdated discovering this world for the primary time,” setting a tone for the earnest, apologetic and certified reward that was all Supply Tags & Codes (and, actually, all rock music of this kind) might earn going ahead — that the overwhelming, elementary emotions it conjures, of implacable ardour, inexplicable torment, and even simply discovering the indie rock canon, are someway much less reliable due to their immediacy. I don’t completely agree along with his view of Supply Tags & Codes as a gateway album; it’d ultimately lead youthful listeners to the supposedly headier likes of Sonic Youth or My Bloody Valentine, after they’re “prepared” for them. However what if it was actually the opposite means round?
On the time, I knew sufficient about Sonic Youth to acknowledge how, say, “Baudelaire” couldn’t exist with out them — a vocal melody chasing an octave riff is the Sonic Youth factor, particularly if it’s linked to some type of egghead artwork reference. And whereas Fugazi didn’t invent the “one man sings/one man screams” vocal dynamic, they at the least codified it, so I knew why screamo-adjacent explosions like “Homage” and “Days Of Being Wild” had been needed for stability.
But I nonetheless discovered it troublesome to embrace Sonic Youth and Fugazi as greater than passed-down historical past classes on the time, largely due to the luggage of “significance” attributed to them. I might get drawn in by the propulsion and drone and unorthodox guitar harmonies of Daydream Nation, however had a reflexive repulsion in the direction of the NYC-exceptionalist boho pretensions that made Sonic Youth fandom deal really feel insufferably smug (their “Homerpalooza” cameo however). The individuals I knew that advocated for Fugazi all the time appeared to fixate on their moral purity and ethical superiority greater than the precise music (at the least till The Argument made its strategy to my faculty radio station and I might formulate an opinion in actual time: It fucking guidelines.). And that’s the place Supply Tags & Codes is available in — it did all of that stuff whereas dealing in massive, sloppy feelings, and it required no preconditions for understanding other than being open to experiencing massive, sloppy feelings. In different phrases, it was as emo as they may get with out really being the type of “emo” that Path Of Lifeless despised in 2002.
However certainly they may perceive why they’d been provided that tag in some circles, or why fashionable emo bands are those holding the torch for Path Of Lifeless; simply go hearken to “A Good Teenhood.” In addition to, what’s “Relative Methods” however their very own reply to “The Center,” a singsong pep speak to themselves as they bought into crunch time creating their make-or-break album. I’m not precisely shocked it by no means achieved a fraction of the Jimmy Eat World track’s success; I can’t think about Taylor Swift singing alongside to “Relative Methods,” since not even Keely appears like he can sing it accurately. “One other Morning Stoner” seems to be the most well-liked track on Supply Tags & Codes and is a quintessentially emo expression of a romantic impasse, albeit run via a prism of theological debate. “Is heaven to you an ideal place?/ The look of sorrow on a sufferer’s face?,” Keely shouts, addressing a companion raised in strict Christianity. “Why is it I don’t really feel the identical?/ Are my longings to be blamed/ For not seeing heaven such as you would see/ Why is a track a world for me?” Additionally, though I can’t completely confirm this, I’ve learn that “One other Morning Stoner” is definitely a reference to wooden and never weed.
This isn’t to say that Path Of Lifeless lacked pretension; I imply, have a look at the rattling identify once more. The multimedia syllabus that totally unlocks Supply Tags & Codes‘ mysteries is way extra intimidating than their report assortment, however to Path Of Lifeless’s everlasting credit score, they guarantee all of their references are supplemental to the expertise, not elemental. No matter romantic slight that causes you to punch a wall together with the refrain of “Hand In The Coronary heart Of The Matter” — “I’M SO DAMNED! I CAN’T WIN! MY HEART IN MY HANDS AGAIN!” — issues greater than whether or not or not you’ve seen Fallen Angels, the Wong Kar-Wai murderer romance that influenced its lyrics. “Days Of Being Wild” takes its title from one other Wong Kar-Wai movie, however all you could grasp the place they’re coming from is a few precise wild days of your personal — or at the least nights of wilding the fuck out at a hardcore present that ends after quarter-hour.
I didn’t know who Stendhal was in 2002, nor the syndrome attributed to his identify. Nor was I conscious of neo-classic oil painter Maxfield Parrish or his muse Sue Lewin, or the ebook that detailed their relationship, which served because the inspiration for Keely’s lyrics for the incapacitating nostalgia of “How Close to, How Far.” It took me years to comprehend that there was an precise identify for the fugue state that it induced as I pounded out each drum roll on my steering wheel, bench press, or no matter different barely pliable floor is inside attain. I might inform that Neil Busch actually meant it on “Baudelaire” when he outed boredom and emotional distance as the one crime on this lifetime of ours; I didn’t know that Baudelaire himself was really liable for that quote. You possibly can argue there’s an irony in shouting down aloof intellectualism on a track referred to as “Baudelaire,” however then once more, what passionate 20-something has a completely coherent ideology?
The engrossing din of Path Of Lifeless’s music made it simpler to understand and even overlook their extra tutorial bent, which in all probability explains why Worlds Aside was such a shock — without delay each extra arcane and extra pop than something that preceded it, Worlds Aside tried somewhat little bit of all the things besides Supply Tags & Codes II. Whereas I can’t fucking wait to speak about Worlds Aside‘s twentieth anniversary three years from now, I’ll admit that I’m nonetheless not sure about whether or not Path Of Lifeless had been making an attempt to transcend their inevitable backlash or lean into it (of their 4.0 overview of Worlds Aside, Pitchfork famous that the repute of Supply Tags & Codes was “starting to dwarf the band itself in significance,” which is a few actual Scorching Canine Man stuff). Not like its predecessor, it did handle to chart on the Billboard 200 at #88. I don’t doubt Keely’s account of being demoralized by the inventive imaginative and prescient at Interscope HQ, however simply have a look at this unbelievable video for “The Relaxation Will Comply with”; on the very least, he bought How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb to pay for that.
I don’t keep in mind a lot about 2006’s So Divided other than considering it had one (1) good track upon first hear; that’s, till I found it was really a Guided By Voices cowl. Path Of Lifeless moved on from Interscope and have since develop into right-sized, dependably making fairly good and infrequently nice data which have on no account deescalated their prog fantasias. Indie rock has moved on as properly, and nobody appears to carry Path Of Lifeless’s older work in opposition to them anymore; all events appear to agree that getting one other Supply Tags & Codes is as seemingly as Jimmy Iovine doing A&R scouting at Borders.
However what does it say about Supply Tags & Codes‘ place within the canon if nobody has come near matching its golden ratio of aggression, accessibility, and artifice? Dogleg had been one of many few bands I’ve ever seen particularly namechecking it as an affect, and the string-soaked, six-minute “Ender” is fairly clearly modeled after the title observe from Supply Tags & Codes. Each every now and then, a Touché Amoré or Cloud Nothings track, and even only a part of 1, would possibly get the stability proper. Or possibly ULTRAPOP if the Armed weren’t so intent on sustaining a veil of secrecy about themselves. It’s not like there’s been a complete lack of dynamic and melodic heavy indie rock. The truth is, there’s in all probability extra of it now than at any level prior to now decade or so; maybe what’s actually lacking is the major-label push and unrestrained enthusiasm that created a capital-e Occasion out of the type of album that hasn’t had entry to both in these extra circumspect instances. Twenty years later, this someway makes Supply Tags & Codes really feel like an aspiration, a mannequin for an album that we’re nonetheless main as much as, one thing that may unify all the things thrilling happening in emo or post-hardcore or metallic or arty indie rock. I don’t know if this makes Supply Tags & Codes an ideal 10. I simply know I all the time need to flip it as much as 11.