QUICK SPINS: Trans Am, Peter Wolf
By Tankboy in Arts & Entertainment on Apr 28, 2010 3:20PM
In which we take a quick look at a few recent or upcoming musical releases.
Trans Am claims that Thing is the result of them attempting to salvage their musical adaptation of Romeo & Juliet after investor funding fell through. If that's true there's no recognizable vestiges of that famous tragedy held within the album's robotic tunes. The band has always traded in the lingo of Krautrock synths and treated guitars over drums that are slightly funkier and playful than you would expect to enter into this mix. Let's call it robot swing, shall we?
Thing ends up coming across like sci-fi stripper pole dance music. There's something undeniably sexy laying deep within Trans Am's grooves, but there's an emotional distance that gives the songs a metallic sheen. In fact the only track that feels vaguely human, and this is unexpected since nothing natural was employed in its composition, is the brief but affecting title track. This ain't electro rock, it ain't strictly dance music ... it can only be Trans Am.
Peter Wolf is best known as the singer for the J. Geils Band, themselves best known to the general public for their '80s hits, but best known to music aficionados as an incredibly fiery live band in their prime. And while that's all well and good we admit we're surprised we're even writing about this new album at all! But we're glad we gave it a few spins because sometimes it's a good thing to be surprised.
Midnight Souvenirs finds Wolf in a fine voice most comfortable in nighthawk form, slightly scratchy but still elastic and emotive. Wolf seems most comfortable kicking out tight blues rock to shimmy around and croon over, and we admit that sounds a bit generic but Wolf has a charm that's hard to resist, so even if he employed this tactic on every track we'd probably still like the new disc. But he rounds up a number of collaborators -- including Shelby Lynn, Neko Case and Merle Haggard -- to add some unexpected country swagger to a few tunes, and later on even pays homage to the Philly Sound with a song that rises above ridiculous lyrics to glint off a disco ball and fill up the dancefloor.
Wolf spends his time on Midnight Souvenirs giving knowing nods to all of his influences, but he breathes enough life into these familiar tropes to keep you entertained the majority of the time.
Peter Wolf plays May 15 at Park West