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Music Review: Imperial Teen

By Daniel J. Katz
staff reporter

There's a pretty good chance that these lyrics ring a bell, but you can't connect a band's name to them: "You're one, you're one, peace and love and empathy"

Imperial Teen's You're One became a minor alternative radio hit in 1996, but despite critical acclaim for the band's debut album, Seasick, they never really broke into the mainstream. Now Imperial Teen's second opportunity for success has come, in the form of their new album, What Is Not To Love (London/Slash) and an opening slot on the Marilyn Manson/Hole tour, which will roll into the Worcester Centrum on April 9.

Most of the publicity for this album should come from its first single, Yoo Hoo, a steadily grooving toe-tapper which can currently be heard in commercials for the movie Jawbreaker. Any listener expecting more of the same on the album will be pretty much unfazed by its first four songs, all quick and hummable pop tunes, including the stumbling rhythms and distortion of Birthday Girl, and the fourth track, Lipstick, which manages to be driving and restrained at the same time.

After these four songs, however, comes the first surprise of the album, as a mysterious flute sample ushers in Alone In The Grass, seven minutes of eerily muffled grunge with a menacing bass line and intermittently piercing guitars. Imperial Teen's vocals are tender and harmonic, and the effect in this song is wonderful, as whispers and echoes of lyrics like "the animal bites only if you provoke it, are delicately laid over the instrumentation." The vocals are also nice in the next track, Crucible, but while the song is very pleasant and relaxing, it breaks the momentum of the album somewhat, and might have been better placed at the end.

There are more intriguing moments on the album: Seven is another peaceful ballad, one that doesnt sound quite as empty Crucible, and my favorite track, Hooray, only features about five lines (including "Hooray for you, hooray for you, looking black, turning blue") which are repeated in various orders for seven minutes. At first glance, this would seem like overkill, but the addition of overdriven guitar noise and screaming vocals develop the song into a delectable piece of organized chaos.

The majority of What Is Not To Love is made up of inviting three-minute pop songs that set in with a riff, verse, and chorus, and get out before you have the chance to get bored (a style that reminds me of Elastica, whose new album sadly was never released last year). But the deviations from this norm are a breath of fresh air, creating an enjoyable album which functions well for casual listening, but which draws you in at the same time.