Transplants – “Diamonds and Guns”

Released: 10.22.02

Peak: Did not chart

Tim Armstrong and Travis Barker were hardly slumming when they teamed up with Skinhead Rob Aston. Barking and biting with indiscriminate rage, Aston was some kind of rock and roll original. As with Eagles of Death Metal, Transplants was an admirable instance of established musicians hoisting a talented eccentric buddy to prominence. And as musicial project, Transplants promised such a crazy fusion of every music that dared call itself hardcore–punk, rap, metal, whatever–that their failure to fully deliver may have been a blessing in disguise.

Aston’s energy didn’t exactly guarantee geopolitical acuity, and as someone who still can’t quite parse Rancid’s “Rwanda,” I’m pretty sure Armstrong wasn’t the guy to clarify matters. Still, not only was this Rancid/Blink-182 supergroup on to the existence of blood diamonds before hip-hop or Hollywood, “Diamonds and Guns” sought to tie in the plunder of wealth to the way structural violence spread out across two continents.  If they did so confusedly, sometimes incomprehensibly, like a stoned punk kid telling you what he thought Traffic was about, well, that sounds more interesting than at least half of Traffic itself.

In other words, “Woo hoo!” Transplants isn’t my favorite Rancid spin-off–the first Lars Frederickson and the Bastards disc remains a scruffy rush–and to call it my favorite Blink side project is saying next to nothing.  But it sure energized the busmen on holiday here. When Armstrong snarls “It’s a wicked world we live in,” you can hear his relief in expressing the outlaw side his day job requires him to sublimate into punk solidarity. And Barker is freed from the speedy spasms of Blink to pound the song home.

Alas, in the ultimate irony for a skinhead, Garnier Fructus used this track’s mutant “Hey Bulldog” piano riff and demented “woo hoo,” shorn of all lyrical content, to soundtrack its commercials. As the Clash sang on “Death or Glory,” he who shaves his head will later sell shampoo.

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