Review Summary: ship us home please, after three albums we've had enough of this warzone
For a supergroup featuring members of both Rancid and Blink-182, it has always surprised me that Transplants never garnered a great deal of attention. The punk-meets-rap style is a little lacking in substance but could most definitely be sold to latter-generation punk fans hoping for another round of rebellion like the early days of the genre. Still, the band remain shrouded by relative obscurity, maybe only really visible to those who follow the member’s other projects. Making an educated guess as to the reason isn’t exactly difficult though. In fact, it’s much too easy; the band are forgettable. Really, really forgettable. Transplant’s first two full-length releases, their self titled album and the later Haunted Cities
were self-styled exercises in mediocrity; crass and underwritten in equal measure, despite the individual talents of the members. Many supporters of the band may argue that as a punk band (in sound, if not ideology), Transplants are staying true to their name by producing simplistic rock tracks. This argument could perhaps hold water, if there was any sort of admirable ethic at the heart of their music. As it stands, there isn’t. The music feels lazy and is riddled with lyrical clichés, some of which are ridiculously obvious. After eight years of heavenly peace, Transplants have returned and stepped up their game, if only slightly.
In a Warzone
marks Transplant’s shortest musical output to date, with only three songs crossing the three minute mark. This serves to streamline the album somewhat, each song feeling pleasantly sporadic. Unfortunately, this also serves to make the album seem more inconsequential, with tracks ending before they’ve had chance to make any real impact. All ideas float very much on the surface of the music, with little attention being paid to lyrical depth or musical endeavor. Even the title track, with its surprisingly catchy chorus, struggles to get off the ground, recycling the song’s structure and rewarding any expectations of innovation with bitter disappointment. The good news, though, is that the music actually possesses a modicum of superficial appeal this time, with chunky riffs, low booming bass, and some rather enjoyable segments to the music. This improves on the formula by actually expanding musical ideas rather than just wallowing in them; as such, the hip-hop aspects of previous albums have been noticeably toned down, remaining only in some of the lyrical patterns. Even these are not without their punk stylistics, however, with vocal duties noticeably mimicking punk structure (particularly on 'Come Around'), but these instances feel like sluggish relay rather than rebellious tribute, and as such, they fail to make any real connection with the listener.
One of the most bizarre things about Transplants is the fact that the individual aspects of the music work, and work well. Travis Barker’s input features all the electricity of his invigorating style and Tim Armstrong’s vocals and guitar work are proficient enough to carry the melodies, such as they are. When these elements are merged, though, they seem to violently clash, and the resulting shockwave is far more subdued than it ought be. On 'All Over Again' for example, the aggression that the band have attempted to pump into the track seems to stand its ground and feebly swing its arms rather than charge full-pelt into the horizon. This non-committal essence is furthered by the more hip-hop driven tracks, such as 'It’s A Problem' and 'Something’s Different,' which really highlight the slapdash structure of the release as a flimsily-assembled whole, allowing underwhelming slower tracks to sit shoulder to shoulder with even more underwhelming faster tracks. Lyrically, the record is charmless and completely without wit, peddling from one instance of obscenity-strewn nonsense to another with seemingly minimal effort involved in bridging the gap. It’s a little refreshing to see traditional punk song structures of verse-chorus-verse-chorus again but this also serves to encapsulate the lack of invention on display here, and as a result, the effect is dry and uninspired. Dull repetition pervades the tracklist and even instrumental segues are remarkably void of interest, usually boiling down to an apathetic drum beat or vapid bassline, seen throughout the album but worryingly so on 'Gravestones And Burial Plots.' It is frankly baffling that, as an outfit, Transplants have progressed this little since their first release in 2002.
To craft an album so devoid of artistic harmony is one thing, but to release it and parade it around as if it was the intended result (because they have done this for three albums now) is ridiculous. As much as the band attempt to engineer this sound, nothing is really going to improve because they don’t seem to build on any of their established motifs. They’ve seemingly retired a lot of the processed beats and looping piano soundbites, but at least they added some variety to the sound. Without them, the sound is more focused, possibly, but even more devoid of innovation than before. In shortening the songs and adding a more infectious vibe to a lot of the songs, Transplants can chalk up a very marginal improvement, but considering it has been eight years between releases for this band (regardless of hiatus), surely they could have come up with something better than this? Between the clip of Winston Churchill’s famous relay of the war with Germany (seriously), the brash coarseness of the lyrics/ music, and the way the release fluctuates uneasily between understated hip-hop beta and punk idealism, In a Warzone
is a boring mess that could easily, with a little more writing time, have been something far more. Stick to what you’re good at, gents.