Sound — 7
Boasting less punch than Rancid but more of punk's roots than Blink-182, supergroup Transplants have re-re-united for 2013's "In a Warzone." Members from mentioned sub-punk titans (plus the less-giant Slackers) are the genetic makeup of this punk rock/rap rock act. Transplants are essentially to drummer Travis Barker what Box Car Racer was to Blink-182 bandmate Tom DeLonge: a hobby-band, rather than a full-on side project. Since its inception at the end of the nineties, the band has only dropped two titles: the disarmingly good self-titled and equally interesting, if weaker, "Haunted Cities." After another hiatus, "In a Warzone" dips Transplants back into the melting pot, hoping to withdraw lightning in a bottle for a third time. For any unfamiliar with the Transplants' sound, said lightning in a bottle consisted primarily of Clash-inspired cuts with a vaguely video game-sounding structure and a few fun raps. "Romper Stomper," the self-titled record's striking opener, could easily fit somewhere on the soundtrack to a "Burnout" or "Pro Skater" game. With the music came a certain culture - a flavor so clear and so focused that it's sorely missed on "In a Warzone." With the possible exception of the fun "It's a Problem," this time the raps only range from space-consuming to silly. The punk-influenced tracks almost without exception utilize brevity (as usual) but also feel empty. Any track more closely resembling the band's creators feels unnecessary. Something like "Any of Them" is okay, but it's a long way to fall from "One Seventeen" (again, from the debut). Keeping analogies that relate to the band's primary audience (ie, anyone into the members' other bands), the band's latest is perhaps akin to Sum 41's "Does This Look Infected?": fun and brief, but seldom hitting the highs of "All Killer No Filler" and "Chuck." Opening with the Black Flag-like title track, the rest of the record's pace is pretty much level. The track list is peppered with plenty of punk-ish nuggets (often with the slightest hints of ska). Why "ish"? Put simply, it's harder to believe "Silence," the title track, and other tracks in the same vein this time around. While "Transplants" felt genuine enough, "In a Warzone" is the first Transplants release that doesn't just sound like a band making music. Perhaps it's baggage, perhaps it's the band wearing a formula too thin, and perhaps it's the imagination of a critical ear. Any way you slice it, "In a Warzone" is just less entertaining than the rest of the band's discography.
Lyrics — 6
Lyrical work has always been a hit-or-miss for the genre Transplants subscribes to, and while plenty of moments stumble (see "Haunted Cities" for more), they've managed to back up for the most part and stick to a sound that doesn't require eloquence. "In a Warzone" is safe and sound in this formula, though "Something's Different" sticks out like a somewhat juvenile sore thumb. Thematically, the writing is what you'd expect from fans (and members) of the punk root and sub-genres: politics, social frustration, and the like. Depending on how initiated listeners are, it may feel out of place or perfectly safe. Vocals alternate primarily between Rancid's Tim Armstrong and rapper Skinhead Bob (Rob Aston). Not much has changed since the birth of the band, though as in the case of everything else on this record, the lyrical and vocal work feels slightly worn. They aren't a boring duo, to be certain, and the punk rock/rap rock routine works well. It just has a bit more meat on the bones of other releases.
Overall Impression — 7
"In a Warzone" is a fun little thrill ride, but it closes with the same thoughts many three-quels do: "That's it?" Granted, Transplants has never been the work of geniuses well, it has and album of the year was far from their grasp to begin with. At the very least, cuts like "See It To Believe It" are a fun token for fans of the band and the genre. Hell, it's hard not to at least enjoy a record that is both short and fun. Even if there are some pretty cringe-worthy references to... You heard it here first, folks... Government spending.