Feel the Sound
In one sense, it fits that a band that’s 16-years-and-five-albums old would call itself Imperial Teen. In another, it’s obviously silly since its members are well into their forties. (For crying out loud, founder Roddy Bottum manned the keyboards for Faith No More.) But that’s Imperial Teen’s formula — deceptively clever, teasing lyrics over sharp pop music.
The San Francisco quartet shakes up its recipe on its latest release. The enveloping, aptly-titled Feel the Sound relies heavily on assured production and warm keyboards to deliver the catchy hooks. Bright guitars amplified the bubblegum riffs on previous albums, and most notably, the band’s minor hit, “Yoo Hoo” from 1999’s What Is Not to Love. (The sultry song played during a memorable high school hallway strut in Jawbreaker, and the band had an additional song, “Water Boy” from their debut album, Seasick, on the movie’s soundtrack.)
The jangly ELO-esque first single “Runaway” kicks off Feel the Sound by showcasing the entire band singing. The rest of the album features so much boy-girl harmonizing that no “lead singer” emerges. For example, “Last To Know” includes the band’s trademark subtle homoerotic lyrics like “pumped up pecs and sticky skin… you set the trap and locked your phone/ then we became a palindrome” over music that could play during any episode of Romper Room. Guitarist Will Schwartz and bassist Jone Stebbins whisper the lyrics in the slow-to-build “The Hibernates,” which somehow manages to be both cute and sexy at the same time. But that doesn’t last. The foreboding “Overtaken” occurs two tracks later and ends the album in an off-kilter riff that’s not in perfect 4/4 time. Oh, there’s still harmonizing, but the echoed “come with me again” sounds like it’s rising from under water. With these 11 songs, you’ll be happy to join Imperial Teen wherever they take you.
Imperial Teen: imperialteen.com