Sphinxian Trans Am to rock The Casbah

Is it post-rock? Progressive rock? Indie rock? Electronica? Retro-’70s/’80s rock? Genre classifications seem to be a waste of breath these days, especially when trying to classify Trans Am, a trio out of Washington, D.C. Since their self-titled debut in 1995, they have continually redefined themselves, taking on different musical personas with a sense of humor and style.

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For those unfamiliar with Trans Am, their latest album, light-heartedly titled “”TA”” (Thrill Jockey Records), may very well be the best one to start off with, since it is their most palatable for the typical music consumer. From the gates, Trans Am was an instrumental act, but that, along with other things about the band, has certainly changed. Trans Am is a retrospective band of sorts, since it looks back at and draws from all that is good about the past 30 years of music, all the while expressing it with a unique style. They have a tastefully selective memory and will slice up a serving of rock that will force the listener to confront any biases they might have about ’80s pop, electronic music, ’90s hip-hop, ’70s guitar rock or wherever Trans Am decides to go next.

Each Trans Am album has been a departure from the last, and their latest is no exception. The electronic element in Trans Am, which started as brief interludes between thumping rock songs, has become the focus of the last few albums. On “”TA,”” the electronic element is employed to exploit the least-expected side of this subversive group — their pop persona. “”TA”” is basically an ’80s pop album, although the ambient and rocking instrumental jams, reminiscent of their first albums, are still wedged into the cracks. The band is pictured inside the sleeve wearing all-white clothing and gold chains (sort of a cross between ‘NSync and P. Diddy) indicating that this is a parody of pop music. However, the music on this album is treated with respect. Although they are dealing with rather conventional styles, it never occurs to say something like, “”Hey, they ripped this off from so-and-so!”” Through their continual exploration of other voices, Trans Am maintains its own.

In a band based on changing it up, some things remain the same: Trans Am’s voice is best expressed by its live shows, which are a sight and sound not to be missed. The bottom line is that Trans Am rocks, and San Diego will get yet another chance to witness these three young, talented and imaginative musicians hit the stage Feb. 21 at The Casbah. Tight, fast, diverse and dynamic — Trans Am is a perfect live show for anyone who can appreciate raw energy, excitement, musical talent and wit.