Surfacing a couple of years after the band's unexpected resurrection but after the departure of bassist Garvey and drummer Maher, who were content to continue their other lines of work, Trade Test Transmissions is at once a fine, celebratory album and something of a disappointment. On the one hand, hearing the Shelley/Diggle partnership fully reestablished is fantastic enough; both singers sound just fine, and their guitar abilities are no less powerful than in the group's original heyday. New bassist Barber and drummer Barker do their jobs quite well enough. If not as distinctly powerful as the original Garvey/Maher section -- the subtle, inventive side of Maher's work is especially hard to replace -- they approach the songs with energy and don't let anything down. For all this, though, there's a sense of unfulfilled promise through Trade. It specifically surfaces in the way that Shelley and Diggle want to draw more on the strictly listener-friendly touch of the band's original days while generally ignoring the more adventuresome side that surfaced in songs like "Late for the Train," "Why Can't I Touch It?," and "I Believe." It's not quite pandering per se, but it's almost too easy an approach for a band that so clearly transcended the punk/pop formula as much as it perfected it. This aside, Trade is definitely enjoyable on its own terms, with a number of songs -- "Innocent," "Smile," the Diggle-penned and sung "Isolation," and "Alive Tonight" -- near equal to many moments on Singles Going Steady. "Palm of Your Hand" is a fun scream, an "Orgasm Addict" updated for the '90s that celebrate the joys of mutual masturbation. As a bonus, the American version includes two tracks from the Do It single, including the tough-rocking title cut, along with "Inside," a Diggle-composed number.
AllMusic Review by Ned Raggett