Music Reviews
Sex Change

Trans Am Sex Change

(Thrill Jockey) Buy it from Insound Rating - 8/10

Sex Change, the latest from Trans Am, is a truly invigorating, exhilarating album. The band, originally hailing from Washington, DC, and now about as internationally dispersed as 3 guys can be, have always been occasionally awesome and at least interesting. Where previous releases sometimes seemed entangled in dominant concepts that sometimes seemed like jokes, Sex Change is the sound of friends reconvening with pent up creativity, creating an immensely satisfying album with a diverse palate.

Trans Am have always thrown together unconventional sources, most prominently combining traditional rock idioms with drum machines, synths and vocoders long before dancepunk became such a Brooklyn buzzword. Here, they seem in full command of the countless toys that used to seem to dictate their sound. In 11 tracks clocking in at less than 45 minutes, a tremendous amount of sonic ground is covered, but it all seems to nuzzle together comfortably.

The songs here don't let up, driving and coasting, soaring into the sun rather than grinding into the ground. Guitar washes and acrobatics colour the songs as funky tweaks and twerks give them detail. The sinister and the inspiring co-mingle to create emotionally ambivalent instrumentals that sure are pretty. Some songs have a relaxed veneer that effortlessly weds electronic programming to rock spontaneity, capable of accommodating Kraftwerk and Yacht Rock in the same space. Strange noise and distortions work their way into the most unexpected places, but seem to belong. Weightless, ethereal synths pop up repeatedly in tracks far removed from the New Age soundscapes they usually seem to accompany, giving lightness and texture to harder instrumentals. Of course, it wouldn't be Trans Am if there weren't some wonderful sticky robot funk, and the album concludes in a blaze of epic prog-rock supremacy.

Trans Am is certainly the kind of band one could work themselves breathless listing influences as they blaze their way through krautrock, electro, metal, math, disco, funk, and parts beyond. What is important is that they do all of this really well, in a way that is unique. I don't know if it's fair to say they've grown into their music, but where they used to be a great band that seemed to be constantly trying on costumes, they return on Sex Change with an aural wardrobe of over a decade that they really know how to wear. Their jokes and concepts and imitations have sunk into their bones and become tools for them to make some of the best music of the year thus far.