Remember the Garnier Fructis hair product commercials from the early ’00s that were always stuck in your head? That annoying ‘woo woo’ loop was thanks to punk/rap rock supergroup the Transplants, who are back with their third record In A Warzone. Transplants consists of Rancid’s Tim Armstrong, middle school mall punks’ favorite drummer, Travis Barker and “rapper” Skinhead Rob Aston. With this combo you get one of the most cringe-worthy releases of the year. A mix of hip hop and punk is an elusive and rarely achieved sound, and In A Warzone proves to be no exception, with every track feeling disjointed and at times unlistenable.
In A Warzone opens with the title track, an obvious reach towards some of Rancid’s past aggro-punk glory, with its driving instrumentals and repetitive vocals that clearly call for a sing along, but like the rest of the album it doesn’t have the passion and realness of the musicians’ past work. While some songs on the record try to blend the punk sound with Aston’s rapping or stand alone as rock tunes, tracks like “Something’s Different” and “It’s a Problem” are purely rap inspired and it does not work. As in previous records, the more hip hop influenced songs tend to pull from what are seen as common lyrical themes in rap music, like lots of drug use and pushing, but with the ages of these musicians, and the fact that they have kids (who sometimes perform on stage with them), songs about heroin just sound a little cheesy.
In A Warzone does have the draw of its two well known punk stars and may attract a substantial, likely very young, listenership– but anyone looking for a worthwhile Rancid side project or a good example of punk influenced rap rock would do best to keep searching. It really might be out there! What this record does have is enough Hot Topic appeal to make it on some “alternative” radio stations, so at least there’s probably another commercial jingle to look forward to.