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Trans Am: Liberation

Trans Am: Liberation

Label:Thrill Jockey
Genre:Indie Rock

By Mikael Wood | Posted 2/18/2004

T.A., Washington, D.C.-based electro-rockers Trans Am's aggressively mediocre 2002 disc, found the trio playing softly, unable to carry its big shtick: limp, warmed-over '80s worship only weakened by the inclusion of Photoshop in-jokes and funny facial hair. Unfortunately for humanity, a war transpired between T.A. 's release and now, a questionable one between a bad guy and a worse guy, out of which a clear "winner" may never emerge. Fortunately for Trans Am fans, the resultant geopolitical upheaval has galvanized the outfit, so where T.A. got mired in hipster-pastiche tedium, its new Liberation, a loose concept album about Why George Bush Sucks, feels visceral and alive--useful even.

Opener "Outmoder" kicks things off with ominous Apocalypse Now helicopter swish; "Uninvited Guest" chops up a Bush speech Negativland-style to yield chillers like, "We will stand with the new leaders of Iraq as they establish a government of, by, and for the American armed forces"; "White Rhino" somehow turns a weatherman's sped-up forecast into a sinister promise of doom; "June" replicates the sound of marching soldiers via drummer Sebastian Thomson's overdriven snare pounds. Even the putatively apolitical numbers throb with purpose, "Remote Control" piling up cool Rick Wakeman keyboard trills like spaghetti and closer "Divine Invasion" approaching sadly defunct peers 5ive Style's mathematically precise Anglo-Saxon funk.

Still, though Liberation is a modest return to Trans Am's early form, it demonstrates how easy it is to run out of ideas in a vacuum: If the world--cross your fingers--doesn't continue its downward spiral, will these well-meaning gearheads find anything to say?

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