Transplants – In a Warzone (Music Review)

In a Warzone cover

Transplants – In a Warzone

The Transplants’ debut album has aged much better than most of its pop punk contemporaries, more for its samples, dance hall sounds, and other experimentation than for the rap fusion that dominated it. A decade later, though, their third album is coming out in a very different world. If the envelope-pushing sounds and tough stories of street life were a reaction to the cookie-cutter pop punk of 2002, today the band is apparently reacting to the complete lack of punk culture with a much more straightforward album. In a Warzone is mostly standard songs, calling back to past sounds instead of trying out new ones. The rap rock is still there, though.

It’s amazing how often this album sounds like Rancid lite, with Tim Armstrong being the one member not noticeably weakened by the past decade. A few could easily be Rancid outtakes, right down to the shouts of “Go!” over opening guitar riffs. But while that may sound like an insult, even lesser Rancid albums are pretty great. (Admittedly, I’m a big fan of Armstrong, but I’m trying to ensure my review and grade takes out the less rational part of my fandom.) This album has some fun punk songs like “Back To You” and “Exit The Wasteland”. At first, I thought “Any of Them” was obnoxious and lazy, with its flat, repeated refrain of “No I don’t give a fuck about you or any of them”, but I’ve come to really appreciate the way it is stitched together with varied verses.

There are definitely times that I wish that the full Rancid band were performing a song, and some of the tough stories of street life sound posed and awkward coming from these middle-aged men (“I’ve seen the blood drain through the cracks in the sidewalk”). But the Transplants still let Armstrong try things that he couldn’t do in Rancid, including a wider range of guest artists. Rapper Paul Wall’s turn on “It’s A Problem” sounds as different as the band’s debut album.

It’s hard to say what the Transplants should be in 2013, and In a Warzone is easiest to appreciate if you don’t compare it to their other work. Considered on its own, though, it’s a strong album put out by veterans who know what they’re doing.

Grade: B-

 
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