Trans Am | Music | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

Trans Am

Thrill Jockey

Electronic indie rock, I should make clear right from the start, has something of a dubious past. Most would agree that the trend -- we used to call it "post-rock" -- is traceable straight back to Tortoise's decade-old debut, which was an almost scientific deconstruction of rock technique that somehow managed to remain head-boppingly jazz cool on one level, even as it shrewdly dissected on another.


But the thing about post-rock is that it's really easy to do it poorly. Simple machines have a way of making simple music, you might say, at least in those situations where the pre-programmed Casio is concerned. Which isn't to say that electronically enhanced math-rock bands are entirely without merit. Groups like Isotope 217 and The Sea and Cake continue to pack venues; occasionally even a non-musician will show up.


Trans Am, however, has always taken the path of the idle and indolent. (That is, their mere existence is an in-joke, so find fault at your own peril.) And while their previous half-dozen albums busied themselves largely by poking fun at rock-star clichés, oddly, on Liberation, the D.C.-based band has attempted to use its influence to get political.


Unfortunately, though, nothing much happens on Liberation that couldn't happen in your very own bedroom, assuming you had a bootlegged copy of Pro Tools, a thrift-store Moog, and a smart-assed sense of humor. A cut-and-paste sound collage of George W. reciting a State of the Union speech sounds vaguely Orwellian, and the effects pedals and rock-electronics that round out the rest of the album sound vaguely retro, in a 1970s-meets-the-future sort of way. 


Then again, it's possible I'm reading this all wrong. After all, I wasn't a Stereolab fan at first either, and in my slow crawl toward middle age, I'm even learning to love Windy & Carl. Could a fascination with the digital delay pedal be far behind?

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