After the release of their last album Liberation,the three members of Trans Am decided to go their separate ways for awhile and each ended up on a different continent. After keeping in communication via email and meeting up for a couple random live shows, the group decided to convene in one place and start another album. That place ended up being New Zealand, where they came together at the MAINZ Recording School in Auckland with a bunch of borrowed equipment and recorded a batch of songs.
Two months later, the group again met up in New York and decided to once again work largely without the equipment (vocoders, drum machines and amps) that they had used on previous albums, instead trying to write and record songs as a quick pace outside their usual comfort zone. The resulting album is easily one of their most upbeat to date, and despite not using their own equipment in a lot of cases, Sex Change still very much sounds like what you'd expect from Trans Am.
In fact, a more loose and unexpected feel (the album was written, recorded, and mixed in a total span of only three weeks) only crops up in a few places on the release, with most of the eleven songs and forty five minutes falling into a fairly smooth electronic-tinged rock palette. Opening song "First Words" takes some curling acid bass and mingles it with pretty guitar and soft synths while sharp drumming keeps time but never gets crazy. "North East Rising Sun" finds the group dropping into a more trancey realm, with some layered synths, a propulsive beat, and ahhing wordless vocals that work quite nicely.
The first major misstep on Sex Change is the flat-out goofy "Obscene Strategies," which sounds like Jon Spencer Blues Explosion doing a flabby electro track that sounds vaguely like "Lowrider." The middle of the album doesn't fare much better, with "Climbing up the Ladder" again working a rehashed funk feel that feels more like a sketch of a track while "Reprieve" rolls out of the gate with juicy bass and a rapid-fire beat before dissolving into acoustic guitars and gooey synth strings.
Fortunately, the group steps out of their arpeggio-rock love for a couple tracks and really shine. "Conspiracy of the Gods" and "Shining Path" are particular standouts, with over-the-top guitar hero workouts, powerful drumming, and some dense synths that sound a bit like Fucking Champs with analogue dreams. As they always do, I'm sure that many of the tracks on the release will translate a little better live. If you're a fan of the group through thick and thin, there will definitely be enough to love here. If you want to know the best place to start with Trans Am, that place is still Futureworld.