Music » Album Reviews

Record Review


Washington, D.C., trio Trans Am has always been one to revisit the past, from prog-rock to kraut-rock, incorporating the various elements in oddly compelling ways -- some tongue-in-cheek, some intensely focused. Snatching bits of Rush, Kraftwerk, Yes and Mantronix, the group released several albums of paranoid instrumentals that alternated between electro-funk, arena rawk and rolling synths. Then, on 1999's Futureworld, the group -- following in Brainiac's footsteps, admittedly -- started closing the gap between man and machine. With snappy drum triggers and Vocoder-warped vocals, Futureworld signaled the new wave of new wave, a world of tensely wound dynamics that Trans Am would further refine on its follow-up, Red Line.

But with its latest, TA, Trans Am revisits its own past, not so much improving as expanding on some of its sillier aspects. Gone are the growling atmospheric experiments, the dense, foreboding guitar soundscapes. Where Red Line couldn't make up its mind what it wanted to sound like -- a schizophrenia that was part of the appeal -- TA sets Trans Am's sights on the lite synth-pop first featured on Futureworld. But now it's more often sans Vocoder -- and sans irony.

With straight four-ward drums, less rampant and elastic bass and synths lacking menace, TA comes across as far too sincere. Occasional highlights "Afternight," "Infinite Wavelength" -- do exist, but with the idea of an electro-pop resurgence no longer futuristic and novel, Trans Am needs to go back to setting its sights on subversion.

Trans Am plays The Earl Sat., May 18.

Add a comment