March 12, 2004

Trans Am "Liberation"

Wow--Trans Am goes political! Who knew that a band that's almost completely-instrumental could actually pull off making a political statement? It almost seems absurd to say that--consider the headline: INSTRUMENTAL-BASED ROCK BAND RELEASES POLITICALLY-FUELED ALBUM. Yeah, it looks crazy on paper, and I'm skeptical of myself on this, too. But, shockingly, Liberation is a very political record. When you have the President's voice manipulated to sound like Satan and giving applause where none was before as on "Uninvited Guest," you don't really need vocals, do you? Of course, let's not get into the issue of the ethics of such manipulations, and no comment on the political commentary they're making, either.

What's even more shocking is the fact that not only is Liberation an improvement over their last few disappointing records--especially TA, their last record, it's also perhaps their most traditionally-sounding record, too. This is classic, easily-recognizable Trans Am--but it's also well-recorded, excellently executed Trans Am. Like so many bands these days, they've learned the value of restraint; instead of getting all wanky and indulgent, they've decided to focus on their mission. They've got the vocoders and effect pedals and they aren't afraid to use them. More than that, they've got some really great songs.

Perhaps the reason that Liberation sounds so right is that the concept behind the album--a soundtrack to an afraid, terror-ridden society with military rule in the street, people unsure of their safety, and a general feeling of fear in the air--is actually one that's been seen. After all, being a DC band, if they say they've seen military vehicles in the streets, I'm inclined to believe them; post 9/11 were fearful times for people in a city that has already been hit once by people who didn't care about losing their lives. "Divine Invasion II" has the sirens and the street sounds sampled into an ominous beat; "Washington DC" is a brooding number that's set off with the statement "If ever there was an excuse for nuclear war, it's Washington DC." Okay! Pulling no punches, are we?

While I might not agree with their new political bent, I do have to say that their newfound maturity serves them very well. Liberation is a liberating break from the blah and boring indie rock tedium that Trans Am helped to create, and even if humanity's fate is hanging in the balance, it's good to know that Trans Am will probably survive the nuclear winter to rule over the zombie-like mutants and the cockroaches that will live on.

--Joseph Kyle

Label website:

No comments: