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Volume X by Trans Am
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9/10 Mike 07 August 2014

Can you believe it's 18 years since Trans Am dropped their self-titled debut. Makes you feel old, doesn't it? DC's robot rock veterans are back this week with album number ten, aptly titled 'Volume X', on which their creativity shows no signs of abating.

Right from the start this is a varied and vital record, setting the scene with the crunching riffs and eerie drones of the almost Torche-esque 'Anthropocene' before dropping into the throbbing modular synth squelch and robotic vocals of album highlight 'Reevaluations' which cooly stalks along all Kraftwerk-meets-Depeche Mode until before you know it you're tangled in a gruesomely buzzy talkbox fuzz funk guitar workout. If you listen really closely at the end you can hear them chuckling to themselves at the end of the take.

Kraftwerk are clearly a big inspiration on the Warm Digits-esque 'Night Shift' which follows it, but then things get more twisted on 'K Street', a percussive electropop miniature with robotic vocals and jagged guitars, before 'Backlash' throws in the biggest curve ball of the album with a Trans Am-ified take on the proto-thrash chug'n'splatter of early Metallica/Slayer, giving Phil "Life Coach" Manley a chance to bust out his Fucking Champs chops. Brutal!

The other side is good too, with a couple of surprisingly understated and even emotional tracks in the form of space ballad 'I'll Never' and instrumental closer 'Insufficiently Breathless' which centres around a strummy acoustic guitar and synth strings - tempered by the majestic robot-rock strut of 'Megastorm' which they bookend. Ten albums deep, Trans Am's music is as potent and imaginative as it's ever been, and given the recent upsurge in kraut/kosmische-inspired rock bands they suddenly have the complexion of heroic trailblazers rather than kooky outsiders. Hopefully a lot of people will hear this record.


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