Trans Am – Thing

January 01, 1970

(Thrill
Jockey)

 

www.thrilljockey.com

 

One
foolproof plan for avoiding the clichés of rock lyrics is to play rock without
lyrics. It’s worked for Trans Am for 20 years — more or less. But keeping
things fresh is a challenge even if you avoid silly love songs. While the
D.C.-rooted trio’s new Thing is a
solid set of cosmic funk/arena rock, it doesn’t add a lot to the band’s legacy.

 

Technically,
there are lyrics on this album — the group’s ninth — but only on a few
tracks, and heavily distorted with vocoder. More typical is the
spacey-yet-earthy vibe of “Space Dock,” an instrumental that could
prove useful if Bootsy Collins ever makes a sequel to 2001: A Space Odyssey. Midtempo keyboards chatter in the foreground,
while slo-mo faux-orchestral flourishes float behind them.

 

When
heavy percussion is added to this formula, as in the almost-rollicking
“Black Matter,” Trans Am sounds something like its most heralded
descendant, Battles. The band pushes the beat even further with “Heaven’s
Gate,” a six-minute acid-blues blitz that sets a Ginger-Baker-style drum
workout atop sci-fi synths and squealing (but not exactly Claptonesque) guitar.
The piece is unusually free-form for the band, which is more persuasive when it
doesn’t get all human on us. It’s chugging robo-funk of tracks like “Arcadia” that shows
Trans Am at peak man-machine efficiency.

 

Standout Tracks: “Black
Matter,” “Arcadia”
MARK JENKINS

 

 

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