Record Review - 1 May 13 2004

After all these years, Washington, D.C.-based trio Trans Am finally has something to say. Liberation, the eighth studio offering by these paranoid cousins of the post-rock legacy, embraces Trans Am's M.O. of fusing conceptual cock and Kraut-rock flare with quasi-electronica, but finds the recording built around a stylish agenda of Orwellian anxiety.

Trans Am has placed an emphasis on style over substance since its 1996 self-titled debut. A timid vocal presence occasionally takes shape in the bass-heavy grind, but getting a point across by way of words has never been Trans Am's bag. Liberation follows suit, but as the constrictive cadence of opener "Outmoder" bleeds into "Uninvited Guest," the group proves that a concise political rant isn't the only means of saying what it means. As a doctored sample of the commander in chief boasts of "destroying hospitals and schools in Iraq," the song serves as would-be comic relief, if it weren't for the subject matter.

"Divine Invasion Pt. 2," "Washington D.C." and "Total Information Awareness" flow seamlessly into each other as somber tones transform into a nightmarish rumble, evoking the sadness and hysteria that gripped America in the wake of 9/11. As residents of Washington, D.C., Trans Am had a front row seat to the business end of a terror attack. The fear, anger and resentment that binds Liberation is a deliberate emotional response to the event from a group of otherwise detached noodlers.

Trans Am plays the Echo Lounge Mon., May 17. 8 p.m. $10.