Album: "In a Warzone"
Rating: 3 stars
Transplants, a side project for Rancid's Tim Armstrong and band roadie Rob Aston, together with Blink-182 drummer Travis Barker, returns to punk-rock basics on this third album.
Its predecessor, 2004's "Haunted Cities," attempted a more radical mix of punk dynamics with rap and hip-hop styling, and it proved to be an uneasy alliance.
The rap/hip-hop influence hasn't gone away on "In a Warzone," but has been integrated more smoothly with the band's no-frills, blast-away approach.
"Something's Different," featuring rappers Bun B. and Equipto, flows smoothly through its rapped verses into its punchy, shout-along chorus. "Any of Them" is less successful, starting promisingly before falling into a repetitive, sing-song pattern with little room for variation.
The album's stripped-down rock tracks are more uniformly rewarding. Chanted group vocals and old-school guitar riffing enliven the paranoia-laced lyrics of "Back to You." A basic punk-rock chord progression fuels "See It To Believe It" and its apocalyptic imagery, with Armstrong's passionate vocal punctuated by a brief, scorching solo and Barker's energetic drum rolls. In fact, Barker's playing shines throughout the album.
"Come Around" veers the closest to Rancid territory, adding a strong melody to go with Armstrong's unique drawling vocals. It's the album's best track, though the fiery closer, "Exit to Wasteland," runs a close second.
"In a Warzone" presents a mixed bag of styles, most of them highly listenable and all of them well-played. It rises and falls with the quality of its songs, and, fortunately, the majority of these are solid, ear-friendly tunes.
Note: Those offended by profanity will find many an f-word here to fret about.