Transistor Transistor
Ruined Lives

Seems like the whole retro punk/post-punk thing’s been around for so many years now that it’s become modern again. Band after band continues to crossbreed genres, reference points and each other to create output that maintains a core of familiarity, but still manages to sound fresh as well. New Hampshire’s Transistor Transistor sit somewhere in the middle of all of this, blasting out a dirty, upbeat mix of Black Flag-era punk, modern screamo and good ol’ rock n’ roll.

Opening track “Morning Sickness” bursts out of the gate with bright, choppy riffs and snarling, slurred vocals which frequently and suddenly crank into a screamo yowl. The whole package instantly recalls some of The Dillinger Escape Plan‘s more streamlined moments, but it never tilts into camp. After flailing about for a couple of minutes, the track surprisingly slows and catches its breath for a brief interlude before grinding out its final riffs and screams. So far, so good.

The next few tracks bounce along in much the same fashion – they’ve all got a good ragged bite to them, big energy and plenty of groove. In fact, Ruined Lives would probably be a more mainstream-friendly experience if it weren’t for the berserk screaming – which I’m thankful for, because I think it’s the most appealing element here. After “Pillar of Salt” (which tries for a sludgy, ominous onslaught, but just sits there like a…), Transistor Transistor wisely changes up the flow instead of letting the album thrash and tire itself out.

First “The Ghost Hand” completely switches it up and drops to a low, Southern Gothic drawl, like 16 Horsepower gone doom. Then “Harvest” picks up the pace a bit more, but it’s still got that sinister, doomy lope, and slowly builds in screamed intensity until we’re delivered back into the second half of the album. Grinding down to these tracks in the center of the album was a smart structural decision, because it makes the explosion of raucous energy in “Letter of Resignation” (one of the album’s best tracks) seem all the more striking.

The only element here that I don’t think works as well as it should is singer Nat’s “clean” punk vocal – his slightly British slurring may be an homage, but it comes off as a lazy affectation. Perhaps it’s just that I don’t like this particular type of delivery – it sounds more Mongoloid than menacing to me. Luckily, the screams make up for it, especially on the tracks where they dominate.

Overall, this was a nice surprise and a solid grower. Good energy, mean attitude and some unexpected depth throughout. Given that there’s some vision here, It’ll be interesting to see what they do next.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Jordan Itkowitz
June 14th, 2008

Comments

  1. Commented by: swampthang

    I could’ve sworn lambgoat posted that they broke up awhile back. Anyways cool band though.


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