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Trans Am – What Day Is It Tonight?

Thrill Jockey

Trans Am‘s blend of rock/electro comes to the stage with live album What Day Is It Tonight? Many lesser bands wouldn’t be able to pull this kind of fusion off. Synthpop and hard driving rock are seemingly chalk and cheese. Lesser bands might have troubles, but this is what Trans Am do and they do it like fucking champs (and indeed sometimes alongside The Fucking Champs).

The world Trans Am conjures up has the same kind of split personality as their music. Their vision lurches from tongue in cheek Kraftwerk future world of kitsch to a dark scifi dystopia; sometimes within the same song. For all the cuteness of “Futureworld” ‘s vocoder pop there is something unsettling about it. A much darker vein of synthpop emerges towards the end, like the stark isolated sound of John Foxx. The old classic “Firepoker”, on the other hand, is as dark a paranoid fantasy as Gary Numan never had in the 80s. Trans Am share another similarity with Gary Numan. After all, Numan was a punk musician who simply replaced guitar with synth. His sound was still driven by a human rhythm unit. And beneath all the electronics Trans Am use they remain very human and organic.

The live recordings, without all the aids and comforts of a studio, really show just how good Trans Am are musically. They play with a frightening level energy. Nathan Means‘ is an absolute powerhouse of a bassist. Both he and guitarist Philip Manley are just at home playing keys, and no I don’t mean just pressing start/stop buttons and tweaking filter, I mean playing. The tight rhythmic unit he forms with drummer Sebastian Thomson lays down an unstoppable rock undercurrent. Few bands can deserve to be called a power trio more. What Day Is It Tonight? captures Trans Am at their most awesome.


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