Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Transistor Tramps

It's a sad irony that the Transistor Tramps decided to fold the tent just after completing their self-titled debut CD-EP, when they should have been celebrating four years as a band. Such was the level of acrimony that attended their dissolution that they aren't even playing their planned CD release shows -- a pity, as the record's good, and they invested a lot of time, sweat, and treasure in its creation.

Tramps chanteuse Elle Hurley met her guitarist-husband Richard when their bands (hers: Slick Lady Six; his: Blood of the Sun) played together at the late, lamented Wreck Room. After that, Richard said, "I stalked her on her band's Myspace page." They formed Transistor Tramps with keyboardist David Sebrind in March 2008 after collaborating with him on a film soundtrack, and were married at the end of that year. Rhythm section players came and went until bassist Jamie Myers (ex-Hammers of Misfortune) and drummer Brian Shaw (ex-Panther City Bandits) stuck. (That said, Jason Sweatt kicks the traps on the majority of the tracks.)

Sonically speaking, the proximate models are female-fronted '80s outfits like Missing Persons (minus the quirk quotient and Zappa affiliation, although Richard loves him some FZ) and Berlin (minus Giorgio Moroder). Elle's onstage persona is the tough rock chick, but under the veneer, she's got a classic pop voice, redolent of an era when sangin' was more important than dancin', when all the notes came from the vocalist's larynx and not from an algorithm. The songs are sleek, gleaming vehicles for her strengths, propelled by the engine of Sebrind's keys and synths, which echo prime Kraftwerk and Ultravox -- machine-like, but in the best way.

Richard, whose fretboard prowess I've observed for the past four years from the other side of Stoogeaphilia's stage, is a fairly muted presence here. He does, however, contribute a tastefully constructed solo to "In Time," and a bombastic one to "Jackie Boy," on which the Tramps channel Bob Ezrin-era Alice Cooper, complete with rococo arrangement. Elle and Richard are currently on the hunt for other musos, and as she points out, "We all come from heavier backgrounds," so perhaps this track provides a glimpse of their future direction. All I ever need is something to look forward to, and the only reason I keep getting up every morning is to see what happens next.

The Transistor Tramps are dead. Long live the Transistor Tramps.


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