Last April, supporting Chicago's ambient post-rockers Tortoise in London, Trans Am were a sight rare to behold. Not just because they were buried deep in moody, 1970s-style Casio grooves and vocal-free guitar solos, but because of the bizarre deluge of cheers throughout their songs, as well as after. These Washington DC newcomers had revealed themselves able to pull off the mischievous and schizophrenic avant-rock instrumentals which had baffled people introduced to their eponymous debut album. "I think we were totally delirious, dirty and tired, plus I had pneumonia and had been drinking since the afternoon, but it was great," Nathan Means, bass and keyboard player, remembers fondly. Take the mad scientist gene from The Aphex Twin, the jazzy, trance-moodscapes of Tortoise and the cheesy power-rock riffs of Van Halen and you begin to get an idea of the warped sonic vision of Trans Am.
They pull off the genre, surfing well on their new album Surrender To The Night, where they leap from euphoria-thrill, mellow jungle on "Tough Love" to hairy palmed guitar splurges in "Carboforce" with the help of a strong thread of wry humour. But exactly how serious are they?
"If people come to our show and laugh, then we've done a good job," Means believes, "but that's not to say we are a joke band at all. If people call us prog-rock I don't mind, I think it's really funny. I think most prog bands were good musically. I was more into classic rock - The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, then Chicago. I think Chicago had some of the roots of post-rock..."
If Tortoise are the sober leaders of the current noodle-rock wave, then Trans Am are their freaky, disrespectful offspring.
EYE ON THE NEW
A low-key, one-off date for female, long-standing rap champ MC Lyte. She may be just the support act here - number three on the bill - but it's MC Lyte who recently scored the top 30 hit "Cold Rock A Party". A chance to put her house rocking credentials to the test.
MC Lyte, London Hammersmith Palais, 27 Feb