Tim Armstrong and Travis Barker had each found critical and commercial success with their respective full-time gigs by the time they turned their attention to The Transplants in 1999. Hip-hop seemed more than a few worlds apart from Rancid’s classicist Clash odes and Blink-182’s adolescent frat punk. But the band weren’t interested in a clean divide, tilting the music heavily in favor of their rap and electronica tendencies and finishing off with splashes of dub, plentiful samples, and a rough punk rock edge. As such, the Transplants, rounded out by vocalist Rob Aston, emerged as a rap Jekyll to Armstrong and Barker’s punk rock Hyde.
But for all the work put into avoiding punk typecasting, In A Warzone, the band’s long-awaited third album for Epitaph, throws fans another curve by bringing the trio back to its punk rock roots. The title track wastes no time setting the record’s vicious, back-to-basics tone, muscling along at a breakneck pace alongside Aston’s hoarse, tough guy bark. Other tracks like “See It To Believe It”, “Back To You”, and “Completely Detached” are equally charged with purist punk aggression, with Aston spitting angrily about a world gone haywire. But while the band wears its punk pedigree comfortably, it says something that the best moments of In A Warzone, like those on past records, come when the trio settles into more soulful and pop-oriented fare (“Something’s Different”, “Come Around”).
There’s nothing particularly weak about the record, but it sacrifices the band’s singularity in service of a punk sound that, while plenty amped, ultimately feels a bit by the numbers. By foregoing experimentation in favor of a more straight and narrow musical path, In A Warzone feels like the kind of record its members once tried to branch out from.
Essential Tracks: “Something’s Different”, “Come Around”, and ”See It To Believe It.”