New Internationalist


May 2004
Shades of Guantanamo: Trans Am make their point with finely honed dance music, saturnine synth lines and corruscating politics.

Police sirens, guns, rotor blades: for Washington DC’s Trans Am it’s the sound of their homeland gone mad. Liberation is loaded with such sounds, collaged into a soundtrack that resonates with tense menace. Liberation (its title can only be a cruel joke) is not an optimistic album, but as an election-year release from a band that commands an influential position on an increasingly politicized American indie scene, it’s certainly interesting. Actually, more than that. A trio whose previous six albums have slid around between electronic and rock genres, Trans Am have – in a combination of drum machines, guitars and saturnine synth lines – really gelled here.

Once past a shaky start, Liberation warms to its political theme: America as a police state and Bush as Darth Vader. Soundbites have been lifted off the US media and cleverly edited. ‘Our commitment to weapons of mass destruction is traditional,’ says Bush, or rather, not-Bush on ‘Uninvited Guest’. A crowd whoops. ‘In the battle for Iraq, we destroyed schools and hospitals.’ More cheers. The paradox is that Trans Am have used finely honed dance music to motivate their crowds against a repellent theme. If Trans Am lean towards a cinematically dark mood – John Carpenter’s film noir soundtracks come to mind – they can hardly be blamed. ‘This is the beginning of the end of America,’ a doctored Bush opines. Trans Am aren’t the only ones who think so.

Louise Gray

Front cover of New Internationalist magazine, issue 367 This column was published in the May 2004 issue of New Internationalist. To read more, buy this issue or subscribe.

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