Release Date: Jun 25, 2013
Record label: Epitaph
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Punk Revival, Rap-Rock
When two well-known musicians branch out and make something a little different, it can be hard to temper expectations. That’s the problem Transplants dealt with when blink-182 skinsmaster Travis Barker and punk crooner Tim Armstrong of Rancid decided to get together and jam. While it would be hard for them to replicate the success enjoyed by their respective bands, Transplants crafted a pretty unique blend of ska/reggae/rap/punk on their first two albums.
The punk rock super group of Rancid's Tim Armstrong, blink-182's Travis Barker, and roadie-turned-rapper Rob Aston made a splash with a couple records in the early 2000s before going their separate ways in 2005. The albums were an interesting mix of hip-hop, dub, and punk rock that featured Barker's powerful drumming, Aston's barking raps, and Armstrong's sonic experimentation. When the trio got back together in 2010 to begin working on new material, they stripped down their sound and focused on the punk rock aspect, making In a Warzone sound more like a Rancid album than a mash-up of the three musicians' interests.
Eight years after a second album whose forays into rap and techno barely masked how few decent songs it had, Transplants – Rancid's Tim Armstrong, blink-182's Travis Barker and an irritable ex-roadie they call Skinhead Rob – are back to the kind of restless, high-def rock and roll outcasts once called punk. It's a sound more Clash than hardcore – "Come Around" and "Back To You" dare to feature acoustic guitar, which Woody Guthrie claimed killed fascists long before distortion pedals existed. With some exceptions, Rob has mercifully given up trying to rap, but still shouts with a rhythmic verve that outclasses his Warped Tour-core peers.
Tim Armstrong and Travis Barker had each found critical and commercial success with their respective full-time gigs by the time they turned their attention to The Transplants in 1999. Hip-hop seemed more than a few worlds apart from Rancid’s classicist Clash odes and Blink-182’s adolescent frat punk. But the band weren’t interested in a clean divide, tilting the music heavily in favor of their rap and electronica tendencies and finishing off with splashes of dub, plentiful samples, and a rough punk rock edge.
Take a look at Transplants’ eponymous debut from a decade ago and you’ll find a band excited to fuse punk with every available influence, making it a mish-mash of excitable tracks from musicians revelling in their new project. Shift to 2005’s ‘Haunted Cities’ and their sound is slightly more cohesive, reeling in the explosive experimentation and focusing in on a blend of rap and punk above other fleeting samplings. It’s now, however, after a lengthy hiatus that the band seem to have taken yet another step closer to their roots.
Previous Transplants albums basically felt like a vehicle for Tim Armstrong and Travis Barker to step outside the punk confines of their full-time gigs (Rancid and Blink-182, respectively), dabbling with bits of funk, hip-hop and electronica. While those elements still exist to a smaller degree on In A Warzone, their first full-length since 2005’s Haunted Cities, this new batch sounds more like a collection of Rancid castoffs, just with co-vocalist Skinhead Rob sharing the mic with Armstrong instead of Rancid’s Lars Frederiksen. There’s a lot of toothy, straight-up “Fuck the Man” punk rock (e.g.