Transplants – [Album]

Tuesday, 25 June 2013

After a decade of sporadic (at best) activity, it can only be assumed that most of the expectations those fans left in the Transplants' camp might have had were gone. Like, sure – the band's debut was awesome, but that was due in part to the fact that there was no template for the band to follow or listeners to make comparisons to; there was Tim Armstrong doing a cool kind of Rancid-esque thing on the mic and his guitar, and Travis Barker really re-thought how he played drums for that record and nobody (nobody) expected to hear a snapping, snarling punk rock emcee (and former AFI roadie) like Rob “Skinhead” Aston crashing through on top. It was unique, it was unexpected and it was cool, and then the band ruined it (as well as the headway they'd made with that first record) by going on hiatus for a couple of years so the band members could do other things. To add insult to injury, the going got worse when Transplants reconvened and released the epitome of “sophomore slump” recordings (Haunted Cities), toured a bit and then vanished again. This did not bode well for the project at all; Transplants shelf-life was seriously cast into question, and it only spiraled deeper into it as time wore on and the band's members appeared more interested in other creative outlets.

As deeply as it might have diminished, the Transplants' name never fell beyond the point of possible redemption. In fact, and as In A Warzone proves, all that really had to happen was the band needed to start from scratch – begin at their roots – and start rebuilding their name from the ground up.

Listeners who have been waiting for the Transplants to return will know exactly what they're hearing as In A War Zone's title track kicks the record open. The sound of that track doesn't just predate the Transplants' first record, it predates pretty much everything this band's members have done collectively since going pro in music; a little rough around the edges and with more than a little grain in Armstrong's guitar tone, Transplants get back to the kind of street punk which used to hide in alleyways and avenues around Gilman St. after dark. Here, Aston barks like a skinhead who was just warmed from a thirty-year cryongenic slumber and there's no chance that the kids in the pit won't be inspired to bark back at him when they hear the delivery; the sentiment is simple and infectious. The same street sentiments fuel “See It To Believe It” (the second track on the album) and, when they hear it, that's when listeners will really know it's real. With “See It To Believe It,” fans will know that the Transplants have have come back and they've done it from the best possible place: they've come back with loose stones from the street still stuck in the treads of their Docs.

While In A War Zone is not perfect by any stretch of the imagination (“Come Around” is subdued and sounds like it might have fallen off the sessions which gave up Tim Armstrong's solo album six years ago, and “Something's Different” is just too slick and reliant on hip hop for its own good and “It's A Problem” lives up to its name), it's dead on when it's on and the urge to pogo will be irresistible when songs like “Any Of Them,” “Silence,” “All Over Again” and “Gravestones And Burial Plots” hit speakers with the speed and force of an A-Train. In each of those cases, Aston and Armstrong bark and rasp like their lives depend on it while Barker keeps his beats oompah simple, and the result is a work of good, old-fashioned punk rock perspicacity. There's nothing fancy about In A War Zone and it plays completely within the box, but the Transplants prove that they're both still able to make this music on this album and, in so doing, that they still matter. It feels great to be able to say that, and even better to hear it and know it's true.


The Transplants –
In A War Zone – “In A War Zone” – [mp3]
The Transplants – In A War Zone – “Come Around” – [mp3]


In A War Zone is out now. Buy it here on Amazon .

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