Imperial Teen: Feel The Sound


With their fifth album Roddy Bottum (the ex-keyboardist of Faith No More) and company should have known better. Feel the Sound, another indie-pop charts creation of Imperial Teen, doesn’t quite hold up to their earlier, catchier and more sardonic albums with tracks like “Yoo Hoo,” “Lipstick” and “Butch.” Despite a punchy opening with “Runaway,” tickling us with end-of-teen-movie, feel-good, high-pitched vocals (a rare contribution by the entire band) the earnestness of the good time feels too serious, lacking any lyrical depth ("No need to talk it out/I rather walk about/It takes your breath away/Take you so far away!").

“No Matter What You Say,” the second track, maintains an upbeat rhythm although leaving itself in a far orbit from the party. It begins with a promising, nostalgic keyboard coming into focus as drummer Lynn Truell follows close behind. The vocals of Roddy Bottum, guitarist Will Schwartz and bassist Joan Stebbins came together nicely, fleshing out the opening in a pleasant melody. However, all of this would soon be taken away with weak vocals occupying the forefront of the melody with esoteric lyrics like, “Foot on the ground/Sky falling down/Stifle the sound/Volume unbound.”

Regardless of strong introductions and deflated middles, an example of a track that manages itself beautifully is “Last to Know.” It combines a sense of melody and narrative with a biting, wobbly opening of the keyboard with chant-like rhythms from team Bottum and Stebbins. One gets the sense of walking along Venice Beach ("Steroids in the cabinet/A trophy wife with benefits/Were you the last to know/Were you the last to go/Whoa oh") with a person who hasn’t quite understood that he/she is alive. Had Imperial Teen kept to their wittiness coupled with a strong indie-pop sensibility, Feel the Sound could have been a contender.

“All the Same,” the track that shows all that Feel the Sound should have been, redeems the album with a perfectly blended sound of heartfelt vocals and intricately woven keyboards and guitars while maintaining an easily accessible drumbeat. The lyrics hold strong and keep a sense of bittersweet loss and nostalgic daydreaming (What if we never meet again/Autumn breeze in the sea again/You will find we never/Had enough peace of mind). It could be seen as a band that grew up, a band that is searching for long lost friends, or perhaps even itself. But Imperial Teen falls prey on too many occasions to shallow choruses and monotonous bridges despite tracks that quickly and smoothly lead into the next, creating a structurally sound piece. In spite of some heartfelt and at times sardonic indie-pop, Feel the Sound, which clocks in at under an hour, leaves one with a sense of being unfulfilled but not necessarily wanting more.

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