It's never been very hard to pinpoint where Denton's Transona Five is coming from. Every answer you need is in the four bands mentioned in the classified ad singer-guitarist Chris Anderson and guitarist Chris Foley placed when forming Transona Five: the Velvet Underground, Stereolab, Luna, and Pavement. A quick trip through Bedhead's discography is sure to fill in any remaining blanks. In fact, it's probably the best place to start. Anderson sounds as if he could have been a long-lost Kadane brother, and the band's lazy melodies and intertwining guitars owe more than a little to Bubba, Matt, and company.
Of course, it's easy to make that comparison. Any band that plays subtly intricate songs in North Texas is guaranteed to get two things: ignored, and measured against Bedhead. The first few songs on Duffel Bag, the band's first full-length disc, don't do much to deter those comparisons. The languid tempos, music-box guitars, and metronome drumming of "No Door" and the chiming, three-guitar climax of "Hey, Hey, Hey" sound like outtakes from WhatFunLifeWas. "Stain" and "See You Soon" both move very quietly and slowly in the same direction.
But about halfway through Duffel Bag, the band finally starts to stretch a bit. "Pourquoi Manges-Tu?" confirms what the band's previous recordings only hinted at: Transona Five is a pop band in space-rock's clothing. The song--with vocals by Go Metric USA's Mitch Greer--is a French kiss that almost sounds tossed off, like a one-take throwaway that was never supposed to make it onto the album. But it's pure pop all the way, with a full arrangement (including trombone) and the strictest verse-chorus-verse structure to which the band has ever confined itself. The "pop band" motion is seconded by "3 Way Glider," its acoustic guitars miles away from the moaning and droning of last year's Melatonin Bullet EP. "Pourquoi Manges-Tu?" and "3 Way Glider" are the kind of songs that you always knew the band was capable of playing, but always seemed incapable of trying.
And just when you think you have Transona Five's slow curveballs and change-ups timed, the band rears back and throws a fastball down the middle of the plate. Well, "Estrogen Blaster" isn't exactly fast, but it's the closest thing to a full-on rock song that the band has ever recorded, all bouncing bass lines and elastic guitars. Even though it clocks in at more than six minutes long, it seems shorter, as repetition turns into melody turns into chaos and back again. "Estrogen Blaster" is Transona Five at its best, a great song on a good album that finally shows that the band is more than just a few effects pedals and a great record collection.
Transona Five performs August 6 at the Curtain Club. Lift to Experience and El Gato open.
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