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The Fucking AM - Gold

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Artist: The Fucking AM

Album: Gold

Label: Drag City

Review date: Jan. 19, 2005

Gold is the second collaboration between D.C. synth-rockers Trans Am and San Francisco metal hipsters The Fucking Champs. The first time ’round, they deemed the encounter Trans Champs, but the expletive is back and in fine form. Much of Gold resembles a classic rock radio station might. There are hints of Van Halen (especially in the triumphant opener “Bad Leg”), Led Zeppelin, Rush and other canonized ’70s groups, with styles changing song to song. The flying guitar solos of “Bad Leg” lead into the slick metal and moog progression of “The Gauntlet,” which features some of the most heavily distorted vocals this side of Black Sabbath’s “Ironman.” It’s one of the surprisingly few moments on the record that sounds more ironic than sincere, a gross reminder of the Champs’ vaudeville cock rock.

As the rest of the songs unfold, however, Gold feels like a genuine tribute to stadium rockers everywhere, exuding a simplicity that erases any doubt of its aim. It’s hard not to nod along with the handclap on “Doing Research for an Autobiography,” and “Taking Liberties” sounds so authentically ’70s , nostalgia is unavoidable.

The album’s core is the last three songs, all linked into one movement under the names “Acoustico Gomez,” “Elastico Gomez,” and “Electrico Gomez.” Beginning with a Jimmy Page medieval acoustic ballad, the “Gomez” trilogy moves into a psychedelic instrumental landscape that manages to be equal parts Yes and Smashing Pumpkins. It’s an epic piece of work, some of the most subdued and gorgeous music ever made by either band.

Gold’s strong points rest on the ability of both bands to put aside their respective trademark sounds. When the Champs’ searing riffs and solos or Trans Am’s synths battle for the spotlight, everyone’s the worse for ware. However, when they work together to create music a step outside of both of their canons, the classic rock shtick actually works. The songs on Gold don’t represent a new sound, but it is largely uncharted territory for both bands. Considering each group’s current run of unmemorable albums, a third installment might be in order.

By Jon Pitt

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