"Big Radio Diamond" is a fitting opening track for the eponymous debut LP from Transistor Sun, the Raleigh trio of rock 'n' roll veterans Eric West, Eric Weaver and Terry Dineen: "The road leads nowhere/ but the engine, she won't quit," West sings in his gruff-glam way, adding just one more couplet before launching straight into a three-voice chorus that winks as it nods. These lines are more like an invocation than a thesis, setting the tone and the playful tension without delivering the details just yet. Instead, the specifics are manifested through the next 10 tracks, all mostly built from a power-pop core that's resurfaced with the grit of distorted guitars and slightly aggressive vocals.
Those minutiae are about getting older and being enticed by the same things while knowing they're not good for you: Hapless characters abound, like the always-upper girl in the delicious "Drive All Night" who's "dancing on the edge of a knife," or the irritant title character of the sneering "Miss Miscommunication." She's a bad habit without regard for West's state of mind, but she—as he puts it—keeps him firm in her grips. On the slinking "King Snake Devil Regalia," Transistor Sun puts the bounce aside for a rare mid-album reflection: Here, above surprising chord changes, West resigns himself to the talisman, wicked though it may be, asking, "Can you believe it's me? I'm chasing your tigers." After all, Transistor Sun is about celebrating old habits—loving, starting over, having fun, playing rock that splices from Cheap Trick, Guided by Voices and KISS—all over again.
Transistor Sun plays with Sleepsound and Haymaker Riot Wednesday, Jan. 9, at 9 p.m. Tickets are $5.