Trans Am Liberation

[Thrill Jockey; 2004]

Rating: 4.5/5

Styles: new wave, post punk, electro
Others: New Order, Joy Division, Kraftwerk

Remember the days when you heard a record that just really blew your mind the first time you heard it? There is an abundance of wonderful music out there. So much of it, however, requires deep concentration, careful attention, and an extremely analytical ear to appreciate. Or perhaps an album is so cerebral and postmodern that it takes an unearthly amount of effort to "understand." Occasionally, however, the casual listener hears a record that just grabs them by the ears and demands that they give it full attention. Trans Am's Liberation is one of those rare albums that combine great musicianship, irony, sonic diversity, and originality. And to top it all off, the album rocks.

Trans Am's sound has matured dramatically with this new release; the band's new record, a combination of wistful, melodic tracks and brooding, New Wave anthems, is extremely interesting and exciting to listen to. This time around, Liberation, a primarily instrumental record, exudes a heavy Factory Records influence, in addition to their trademark Kraftwerk-meets-Arena-Rock sound. Sonically, the specters of Joy Division and New Order (on the track "Music for Dogs," the vocals sound eerily similar to Bernard Sumner) are present, along with, perhaps, A Certain Ratio as well. Furthermore, the album sports squeaky clean production with a post rock edge to it. Trans Am also take a few opportunities here to express their political leanings. To be honest, it's a refreshing diversion from the propaganda we are constantly force-fed by the likes of CNN and Fox News.

The combination of early '80s-sounding techno, coupled with cleverly manipulated rhetoric from Our Fearless Leader on the track "Uninvited Guest" is perhaps designed to create a parallel between our current Administration and the Reagan regime (while, of course, making a heavy statement with tongue firmly planted in cheek about our new policy of "preemptive war"). The ominous "Total Information Awareness" could (and should) be the theme song for our government's terrifying new Orwellian policy of policing the internet, e-mail, and telephone calls; the sinister, robotic voice on this track is the voice of the Big Brother our culture now collectively embraces. "Is Trans Am Really Your Friend?" is a beautiful instrumental piece which soothes the soul and conjures up images of the black-clad New Wave bassists of yore ”” The Cure's Simon Gallup, New Order's Peter Hook, The Sisters of Mercy's Craig Adams, et al.

Each track on Liberation seems to focus on a particular idiosyncratic characteristic of early '80s New Wave (a tightly compressed drum beat, a heavily chorused guitar riff, or a punched synthesizer note) and go with it, letting it carry the track to its inevitable conclusion: "Idea Machine" calls to mind the delay-driven guitar of Romeo Void; the sub-funky "Remote Control" recalls the mutant disco sound of Gang of Four and dares you not to nod your head all the while. The bottom line is, Liberation gets 2004 off to a great start and is the perfect record with which to bring in four more years of Dubya and the rhetoric of "terror."

1. Outmoder
2. Uninvited Guest
3. Idea Machine
4. White Rhino
5. June
6. Music for Dogs
7. Divine Invasion II
8. Washington, DC
9. Total Information Awareness
10. Pretty Close to the Edge
11. Is Trans Am Really Your Friend?
12. Remote Control
13. Spike in Chatter
14. Divine Invasion