All you punker-than-thou scene kids can say what you want, but the Transplants have made some of the most enjoyable music in recent years. As most of you already know, the punk-rap trio features Rancid's Tim Armstrong, MC Rob Aston, and Travis Barker, possibly the most talented drummer around, from the now-defunct (on hiatus?) blink-182. Although their style has elements of Rancid, and a bit of clichéd (but still fun) rap (more so on this album), it still can be pretty original at times. In fact, I can't think of one other band that sounds like them. But does this mean they're good? No. Are they? In my humble opinion, yes.
Haunted Cities is the group's second album, and while the first one was pretty good, it left a lot to be desired. This is louder, harder, more diverse, and much more fun. With plenty of guest musicians and different styles being explored, pretty much anybody can find something they like about it. Some tracks are basically the same kind of aggressive style as the debut, such as "Gangsters And Thugs" and "Hit The Fence," and yet they come out sounding different. Then there's the uncharted territory. A completely jazzed-out rap song with group vocals and a beat that will have you nodding your head whether you like it or not, "What I Can't Describe" is clearly a step up for the group, and my personal favorite on the album. "I Want It All" features a looped Ben Folds-like piano, handclaps, and rapping by Mr. Armstrong himself. It comes off sounding a bit like hip-hop from the wild west (no, not Will Smith). It's a fun song, and perfect for blasting while driving down the freeway in L.A. at 90 miles an hour. "Killafornia" (yes, another song about California, you can handle it), gets back to the more aggressive style, with its badass guitar riff, but is even better than say "Diamonds And Guns," which I still listen to, despite it inflicting images of hair products. "Madness" sounds a lot like a plain old Rancid song (which means it's good already), with rap verses from Rob. "Crash And Burn" loops a somewhat Latin dance beat, and gives us more of Tim's own rapping. Fun times. One of Haunted Cities' best songs, "Doomsday," is a great rockabilly ska-like number, proving that Tim's still got some Op Ivy left in him. The album as a whole is a huge melting pot of styles and explorations, and sometimes leaves the listener wondering if they're still listening to the same band.
I won't say the album's perfect, but it's damn near close in my mind. My only complaint is some of Rob's rapping isn't as good as you would expect. But he's at least better than an "artist" like 50 Cent. Either way, I can't remember being so entertained from track to track. This band is really coming into their own. Still, this is for open-minded fans only. Those expecting Rancid and/or straight up hardcore political punk will not find it here. This is simply a side project. A side project that sounds like it could someday be bigger than Tim's other band.