Trans Am | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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They're 12 years into their recording career, but it's still impossible to predict what Trans Am are going to sound like from one album to the next. They've done freakishly good Krautrock, convincing retro-electro synth pop, ironic boy-band pap, and even some dead-serious (I think) paranoid surveillance-society rock. Sex Change's title and cold, abstract cover art (which could easily package a bottle of cheap 80s cologne) indicate a return to the winking techno irony of 1999's Computerworld and 2002's TA, but the music sounds less like a celebration of faux decadence than a serious (I think) embrace of retro utopianism. The songs still race along on hard, machinelike drums and coldly beeping analog synths, but they're filled out with epic guitar riffs and psychedelically profound lyrics: "Imagine a problem / If you cannot solve it / Just chalk it up by the door." Whoa. After the grim reality of Trans Am's last album, Liberation, I can't tell whether Sex Change is meant to be pure escapism or a comment on our desire for it, but it gets me pumped up, like I've slipped into a really great Nintendo game or a kick-ass corporate training video. The Psychic Paramount and Zombi open. a 10 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western, 773-276-3600 or 866-468-3401, $12, $10 in advance.

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