A personal diary keeping people abreast of what I am working on writing-wise.

Sunday, September 23, 2007


I had a dream last night about blogging. I had done two posts in a row where the titles weren't in all caps, they were in both lettering cases, and it was causing more problems than you can even imagine. I recall hitting the back button a lot, but accidentally double clicking and going past the page I wanted, and then trying to go forward again, back and forth, like trying to parallel park on the internet.

I blame Imperial Teen.

Last night my friend Eliza and I went out to see Imperial Teen at Lola's Room. These guys have been one of my all-time favorite live bands since I accidentally discovered them opening for Gene at a now-defunct club in Seattle whose name escapes me. That was in 1995 before their brilliant first album Seasick had even come out. How often do you find a truly amazing band on the bottom of a three-band bill? It happens more often than the second band being good, I must say. (Menthol was #2 that night, and consider yourself lucky if you've never heard of them.)

Imperial Teen is one of those bands that should be huge, and for some reason, just are not. Their second album is called What Is Not To Love, and really, you listen to the music, and they've given you an impossible task with that question. There really is nothing to dislike about Imperial Teen. The quartet--Roddy Bottum (ex-keyboard player for Faith No More), Lynn Perko (former drummer of Widespread Panic), Jone Stebbins, and Will Schwartz (sometimes ironic disco star Willpower)--has a pitch-perfect ear for pop. Simple, catchy riffs underlying a vocal badminton game where they toss lines back and forth, using sighs and howls as percussive punctuation. (For concrete examples, the videos for "Yoo-Hoo" and "You're One," both performed last night.)

If there is anything to complain about, it's that Imperial Teen is one of those bands that takes years between releasing albums, which is why they've only had four in a decade-long recording career. Album #3, On, was released in 2002, so it's been five years waiting for #4, The Hair the TV the Baby & the Band, and that long since I've seen them play. Coincidentally, that was at Lola's room, as well. With every record being a near perfect gem of joy and craft, you wonder if it takes so long because it's hard work to make it seem so effortless. And just what do they do with themselves in the meantime?

Because when they do come to town, this is what Imperial Teen sounds like, having gotten captured in Seattle just two days ago:

Though we actually didn't hear that song last night. It was one of two songs that we know of that got cut from an already sadly short set (barely over an hour). For some strange reason, the band did not have keyboards of their own, despite having two guys in the group who sometimes tickle the ivories. So, they borrowed the rigs of one of their opening bands. Despite those machines functioning seemingly fine for the other band, Roddy Bottum decided he didn't like the way his rack sounded, and so any piano songs were cut.

Which turned out to be a major disappointment. Can't you fake it? Improvise alternate versions without keys? Or substitute other songs? Did you really go on tour for the first time in so many years and only learn 75-minutes of material? It's not like this is your first album, kids.

Other than that, the show was as good as everything we would hope it would be. There was much less of the switch-around, where the band plays musical chairs with their instruments. Only for "Yoo-Hoo" did Lynn come out from behind the drum kit, singing "Shim Sham" from the back instead. Still, even that didn't matter, as everything else was awesome. The set drew from all the albums, and included old favorites like "Butch," "Ivanka," "Lipstick," and "Water Boy," as well as new winners like "Sweet Potato" and "Do It Better." (But no "Imperial Teen"? If you have a title song, perform it!) Everyone sounded great, the banter between songs was typically funny (though lacking in Will's nonsensical dadaist asides), and people were dancing. (Hey, Portland, why is it when people are dancing down front, the jerk-offs in the back see that as an excuse to step forward and stand closer to those of us who aren't so busy being cool that we actually get into it and move our feet? I need a fire fighter's shirt that instructs these mental defectives to stand back. The bar wasn't even full.)

I was really having fun, but then it was over when it seemed like it had only just started. The band promised to return soon to make up for their keyboard malfunction, but come on, I'm here right now! Why leave me hanging? I want to enthuse about Imperial Teen and the show more and more, but I can't get around feeling cheated. For the entertainment I got, my $13 wasn't wasted, but as the band themselves sang, they can do it better.

Current Soundtrack: Imperial Teen, The Hair the TV the Baby & the Band

Current Mood: disappointed

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All text (c) 2007 Jamie S. Rich


ADC said...

Imperial Teen! You're lucky. I have yet to have the pleasure of seeing them live...
But a lot of good bands have been rolling through as of late. Saw Rilo Kiley again last week, and I think I'll see the Brunettes again this friday!
That's pop for ya.

Craig said...

Thanks for the reminder. I'll be picking up the new album tomorrow. Probably never get to see them live, tho... stuck as I am in the Canadian Praries.

Jamie S. Rich said...

This explains the large group of Canadians in the audience...

Anonymous said...

How could you tell? Lots of maple syrup and Health Care cards?

Jamie S. Rich said...

Oh, the comedy!

No, they kept saying, "Hi to our friends in Canada," and then all the Canadians would shout, "Yayyyy!"

Craig said...

Yeah we do stuff like that.