Trans Am

ALBUM: "Sex Change" (Thrill Jockey)

On Trans Am's latest album, "Sex Change," anything goes. Anything.

Considering its influence over today's indie-rock scene (especially anything out of Brooklyn), it might be hard to believe the D.C. band began as a joke. Their 1996 self-titled debut was a mockery of bloated corporate rock. With a "spot the Boston guitar riff" theme that was either brilliant or stupid, depending on what you thought of bloated corporate rock.

The band's sound has mutated over time, incorporating everything from pop to Kraftwerk-style synth-rock, as they continue to walk that fine line between clever and stupid. "Sex Change" ditches the political bent of 2004's "Liberation" for something akin to an indie-rock jam band vibe. The result is an album of mood swings.

Simple synth-pop tracks such as "First Words" and "Exit Management Solution" offer pastoral backgrounds, if not real substance. When big, chugging guitar riffs enter the picture during "Conspiracy of the Gods" or the mammoth "Reprieve," the band veers towards the psychedelic, pre–"Dark Side of the Moon" Pink Floyd. Those tracks make a bizarre match with "Obscene Strategies," an all-out funk-rocker with faux Barry White vocals. Funny or not, it'd sound great on the next LCD Soundsystem record.

But the biggest flaw with "Sex Change" isn't that it lacks direction. It's that Trans Am doesn't let the audience in on the joke. If, indeed, there is one.

Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times
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