Haunted Cities The Transplants
CD Review by Mike D'Ariano / 1/2006
1. Not Today 2. Apocalypse Now 3. Gangsters & Thugs 4. What I Can't Describe
5. Doomsday 6. Killafornia 7. American Guns 8. Madness 9. Hit the Fence
10. Pay any Price 11. I Want It All 12. Crash and Burn
Label: Atlantic/Wea / Release Date: June 21, 2005
I came to the Transplants late. Somehow or other, I didn't discover their debut self-titled album until it had been out for about a year. I saw a video of theirs on Fuse or some station like that, and lo and behold, there was Tim Armstrong of Rancid. I thought at first he was a guest artist on the song, and then learned that the Transplants were in fact his band. I also learned that the drummer in the group was Blink 182's Travis Barker, and that the other members of Rancid play on a good amount of the album. I ran out and got it . . . it's great.
Fast forward a few years into the summer of 2005 and now we get to Haunted Cities, the Transplants' second album. In the interim between the two records, Rancid put out their forth or fifth masterpiece (Indestructible) Blink 182 broke up, and Rancid's other lead singer/songwriter/guitar player, Lars Frederiksen, released his second solo album (The Viking) which took over the title of best Rancid side-project album to date.
Most of the early press about the new Transplants disc stressed the fact that this album was more focused than it's predecessor which was something of a hodgepodge effort pieced together from various on-the-road sessions. As it turned out, Haunted Cities proved to be a much more consistent album than the band's debut. The album features the same fusion of hip-hop and punk that the band brought in it's first offering, but this time there's a clear thread that runs through the album and ties the songs together. Simply put, the band seems to have knuckled down and honed their craft a bit.
So they were good to begin with, and they got a little better. Do you need more?
Okay, Haunted Cites features a few guest spots. It's not like the first album where Rancid's Matt Freeman is all over the album, but you wouldn't know it unless you read the tiny print in the liner notes . . . well actually, Matt is on this album too and you would have to read the tiny print in the liner notes to know it. That's not the point. The point is that Boo-Yaa Tribe is on this album, and so is Rakaa (Yeah I don't know either, but it says so right on the back cover of the CD). And if that's not enough, Cypress Hill is on the album. Cypress Hill damn it. Well actually, that's not true. Cypress Hill is not on the album, but both of the guys that make up Cypress Hill (B-Real and Sen Dog) appear individually on separate tracks throughout the album. Really? Yeah. Why? Who the hell knows? All you need to know is that their two songs are both really good . . . Sen-Dog's is my favorite on the album.
So in the end, Haunted Cities, is a really strong second effort by a great band with a unique sound. Do I want to see a third Transplants album more than I want to see a seventh Rancid album? No. Rancid could be the best band of all time, definitely the most underrated, and the Transplants for better or worse will always be "The guy from Rancid's other band" . . . or if any part of your day still consists of Gym Class, I guess they could be "The guy from Blink 182's other band". They could make the best album ever, but it's still Velvet Revolver (ex-GNR and STP members), or The Network (Green Day and Devo in ski masks), or for you fifty-somethings, Wings (The guy that broke up The Quarrymen). That is to say they're a band you like because you like/liked some other band, and there's just not much they can do to overcome that.
Better than the crap that Rage Against The Machine is churning out with the guy from Soundgarden: "Not Today," "Gangsters and Thugs," "What I Can't Describe," "Crash and Burn."
Haunted Cities: Screwed and Chopped by D.J. Paul Wall
Okay, this is a new one for me. This review is a review of the same album I just reviewed above . . . sort of. Haunted Cites: Screwed and Chopped, which was released this month, is a remix of the entire Haunted Cities album which was released over the summer. So in one sense, it is the same album, but in another, it's not.
Since we get a lot of readers with different tastes, and I don't think Johnny Maestro has ever put out a remix album, let me run through the concept real quick. Hip-Hop music, because of it's unique "music" half, lends itself greatly to setting the same words to entirely different music . . . a.k.a. being remixed. There are three common reasons a song gets remixed. The first two apply to officially sanctioned record label remixes. 1). A song is widely popular and a remix allows the label to sell it for a second time. 2). A song isn't a hit . . . if at first you don't succeed and so on.
The third reason for a remix is brace yourself creativity. A DJ, with no permission from the label or the artist, will remix a song to their liking and either play their version in clubs, or pass it on via underground mix tapes. Labels usually turn a blind eye to this, and occasionally officially release these underground remixes.
The Transplants remix album, doesn't really fall into any of those categories. It's an official release, so category 3 is out; it's not a hit, so category 1 is out; and it's not meant to be a hit, so category 2 is out. But then on further reflection, it's not really a hip-hop album in the first place, so none of this makes sense. In fact, right on the CD there's a sticker that reads "The first rock album ever to be Stewed and Chopped."
By the way, "Stewed and Chopped" is not just a synonym for remix, but rather a specific type of remix originating in South Houston Texas, where the main component is that the music is slowed down dramatically. It kinda sounds like back in the day if you played a 45 at the wrong speed.
So does it work? I have no idea. I've listened to Paul Wall's remix a few times since buying it this afternoon, and I can't figure out how I feel about it. At times, I think it sounds really cool. At times I find it pretty annoying. The only thing I'm consistent on is that I wish I had spent my $17 on the Mars Volta live album instead. That was my other option standing in Virgin this afternoon with a solitary hard earned twenty dollar bill in my pocket.
Whether I end up thinking the album is good or bad overall isn't really the issue. Simply put, the remix isn't good enough to warrant paying full price for the album a second time. If it was ten bucks or less or if you could get both versions in one package for the price of one, I'd be more inclined to tell you to run out and buy it. As it stands, I just can't recommend it, and if you're only going to get one, definitely go for the original.