Punk rock super group, if there is such a thing, The Transplants (comprised of Tim Armstrong; lead vocalist and guitarist of Rancid, Travis Barker; drummer of Blink 182/ultra tattooed reality TV star and Rob Aston; who is an ex-roadie for Rancid and AFI turned hardcore rapper) have once again hit the street with their sophomore effort, Haunted Cities.
The album has all the ingredients of their ground breaking debut plus a bit more (the bit more is where the problems begin). At times Haunted Cities is pure brilliance and at other times it comes off a little too ambitious, occasionally falling victim to it's own over-production. Rather than keep the pace with their mixture of punk rock and hip-hop, they've opted for a more widespread approach, adding elements of drum and bass. Which leaves one question; if you have Travis Barker (who's regarded by many to be one of the best percussionists in punk) at your disposal; why in the hell would you opt for a drum machine? Maybe he was busy that day filming an episode of The Surreal Life. I'm still puzzled.
While Haunted Cities may not live up to expectations following their self-titled first album it would be unfair to write the album off entirely. For the most part it shines head and shoulders above almost any cross genre releases. But, that's not saying much.
The album isn't without it's high points,"American Guns" and "Madness" come off unscathed as Rob Aston (AKA Skinhead Rob, which apparently wasn't politically correct enough for their major label debut) spits his high octane style of rhymes over balls to the wall punk rock tracks. And in the interest of fairness, he does it well. Booyaa Tribe put their two cents in on "What I can't describe", a straight forward hip hop throwback to the laid back West Coast vibe of the late eighties and early nineties. The boys from Cypress Hill (although separately) join in on 2 tracks, Sen Dogg on the album's explosive opener "Not Today", and B-Real on "Killafornia" (for what it's worth, it's some of his best work since Black Sunday).And let me tell ya, That track has an infectious hook that'll get stuck in your head for days, even if the chorus is lacking lyric wise.
No question, Haunted Cities does fall short, but it doesn't fall flat on it's face. However, don't be surprised to find it in a used record bin at your friendly neighborhood independent record store.
PS. If you neglect your local record store and purchase it at Best Buy, you get an extra sub-par track. Thanks Transplants.