- by Steve Ricciutti Release Date:2017-04-22 Label: Thrill Jockey
Bethesda, Maryland’s own Trans Am is a three-piece that’s been around for a few decades, churning out their own unique soundscapes of what’s often dubbed “post-rock,” a term I’m not particularly fond of, but whatever you call it, I find it unusually appealing.
Their eleventh and latest is titled California Hotel, which I'm guessing is a clever take on the obvious, and the much loved/hated Eagles. Taking it a step further might've been an even bigger laugh - say, a wonky Joe Walsh vocal in the midst of one of their musical oeuvres? Oh, the hilarity.
Low-hanging-fruit Eagles jokes aside, this is something of a new arena for me, stuck in my happy rotation around the bright sun of female-centric alterna-pop as I am, so this temporary asteroid smash of electronic music is a bit like dissecting an animal that first time in biology class. Where the fuck to start?
How about with my favorite from the album, the stirring, galloping “Ship of the Imagination.” This takes me back to the 70s with its shades of Meddle era Pink Floyd. I can see the video that would accompany such a composition; something to do with a convertible, the PCH, and endless lines of coke. Okay, skip the first two.
“I Hear Fake Voices” cascades out of the gate, riding the waves of keyboard before a sweet guitar solo takes things to a new level. “Alles Verbotten” has that Herbie Hancock “Rockit” sound, with the synthesized voice and keyboard pyrotechnics abounding. The title track is John Carpenter creepy cool (did I total miss the part where music from that guy’s movies became the saveur du jour?), but if not for the looping JC synth, you could almost make out some bewitching “Heroes” era Bowie.
There are some things I could do without, such as “I Want 2B Ignored,” which, despite the outstanding couplet “I want to be ignored, treated like a whore,” sounds like it was written by those guys that do the music for all the Nintendo games. Yet, on the whole, this is a nice piece of atmospheric music.
There’s a very time and place feel about this album, although those times and places aren’t consistent, which makes the whole album something akin to the ersatz soundtrack to big chunks of my life. It could be the musical score of a flashback, if you will, albeit one that jumps around like a dream from place to place, era to era. It’s like I’m William Hurt in that movie where he’s suspended in water, you know, from back in whatever decade that was...