Release Date: Dec 8, 2009
Record label: Thrill Jockey
Genre(s): Indie, Rock, Live
Though their records have been received with varying degrees of ironic appreciation, the music of Trans Am has aged better than expected. What may have sounded arch or in-jokey before (and may have even been intended that way) now sounds more like the band has been planting flags and protecting the sometimes contradictory strains of rock they grew up with. That seemingly at-odds musical mix-- between 1970s rock cliché and 80s synth-rock cliché, icy electronics and analog sweat, musical discipline and wild indulgence-- sounds now almost like a masterplan.
The members of Trans Am appear to motivate themselves in much the same way as the owner of a donkey might keep a carrot perma-dangling just out of reach. Except, in their case, they have a gigantic jar of Ritalin swinging on a string in front of them. It’s the only way to explain their agile take on rock, which has the ability to match eternally cool reference points (Can, Kraftwerk, Yellow Magic Orchestra) with the worst Seventies excesses (Yes, Styx, Boston).
‘What Day Is It Tonight?’ accomplishes pretty much everything a live document should... Gonzo Krautrock math-disco veterans Trans Am’s shows have regularly exceeded their discography for pure spasmoid rock party thrills, not least when regularly setting cymbals ablaze, making a live album a fairly sage step for the US threesome. That the record spans their 15-year lifespan puts the kybosh on continuity a touch; see announcing your last song in the middle of an album.
Music for swinging around asteroids or hurtling down a ravine. Nadine McBay 2009 Trans Am are never stationary, the Washington DC trio’s persistent touring matched by a continual stylistic evolution. But for all their progression, the three – bassist Nathan Means, guitarist Philip Manley and drummer Sebastian Thomson – have always looked back as well as forward, reimagining the past while drafting the future.