Listen Up: Wednesday, April 25, 2002
A D V E R T I S E M E N T
A D V E R T I S E M E N T
Imperial Teen

On (Merge)

By Christy Goldfinch

Initially a side project for Faith No More keyboardist Roddy Bottum, Imperial Teen was conceived in 1994 as a sassy alternative to then-prevalent grunge and power pop. It worked. Critics and audiences adored the bubbly boy-girl harmonies and infectious ditties about sex and drugs.

Imperial Teen’s first two albums, 1996’s Seasick and 1999’s What Is Not to Love, fused Japanese pop and California new wave into dance-friendly good times. At the start of On, their third release, the fun continues. Opening the disc is an exhilarating, tambourine-heavy remix of “Ivanka,” previously available only on vinyl. It’s followed by the perfectly poppish “Baby” and its clap-along lyrics: “Shake shake / Go go / Take take / Slow slow / Whoo!”

Between the second and third tracks, however, Imperial Teen takes a sudden turn to sonic sophistication. Luxurious keyboard arrangements and transcendent melodies are now in the driver’s seat. “Sugar” has those beautiful Imperial Teen harmonies, but here they’re mellow and breathy, not bouncy and playful. The rich and dreamy “Captain” is pure Southern California in its rolling drums and early-Mamas-and-the-Papas vocal play.

Polished does not equal boring. The techno-poppy “Teacher’s Pet” and synth-based “I Spy” are as danceable as any early Imperial Teen tune. Lyrics continue to lean toward wry and witty. To Imperial Teen, a teacher’s pet is “a mixed-up kind of girl / The kind you wished you’d never met / And like a dried-up pot of glue / She never sticks when she is wet.” Trading in cute and silly for wise and aware, Imperial Teen has grown up without selling out.


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