Trans Am | Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Trans Am


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Trans Am's mix of testosterone rock and dispassionate drum-machine electronica has all the alchemy of oil-and-vinegar salad dressing--the elements are together in the same bowl but unwilling to really combine. Rather than fuse distinct genres into an elaborate new mutation, Trans Am strips each down and rides it out on its own terms. The trio recorded its third record, The Surveillance (Thrill Jockey), at its own new studio in Maryland, abandoning John McEntire's elegant producerly touch in favor of a gritty live sound the band describes as "no bullshit." The rock tunes fit that bill: gruff and minimal, abjuring the unusual structures, jazz chords, and odd times preferred by neoproggers in favor of sheer streamlined energy. "Extreme Measures" lets bassist Nathan Means kick up a fury out front, while elsewhere there are even nods to establishment rock, like "Stereo Situation," which isn't too long a leap from old U2. The electronic tracks are spare as well, sometimes to the point of seeming more like segues than freestanding compositions, but the stark contrast between the synthetic beats and rock thwack is precisely what makes the band so interesting. Frontier, O.R.I., and Lustre King open. Thursday, May 7, 9 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western; 773-276-3600. JOHN CORBETT

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo by Chris Toliver.

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