The Hair, the TV, the Baby and the Band
by Nicholas Hubbard
Imperial Teen: one of the lost treasures of trashy indie rock. The ones that get responses like, “oh yeah, I think I remember that song”. You’ve probably heard something by the Teen (that single from the soundtrack to Jawbreaker?) and may even own an album. How many, though, have followed their career closely enough to appreciate what they’ve achieved with their fourth release, The Hair, the TV, the Baby and the Band? It’s not a revelation, but despite the title it’s highly listenable. Like Pete and Pete was highly watchable.
Maturity in the music business can often be synonymous with mediocrity—and there is some of that here (songs like “Shim Sham” and “One Two” seem like stylistic filler)—but for the San Francisco quartet it has brought a comfortable handle on their niche. They’re still odd, writing lyrics like “sweet potato, oh sweet potato” and “wearing a hood like the Unabomber”. They hint at groups like KISS and Peter, Paul and Mary. This is still charming; after significant gaps between their four albums—their first, Seasick, was released in 1996—they manage to avoid being annoying. The Hair finds them expressing a range of variations on the indie/garage standard and has echoes as far-reaching as the Sixties (the first few seconds of “Fallen Idol” are like a Turtles b-side) and Seventies (not many bands playing songs like the opener, “Everything”, craft Simon and Garfunkel harmonies, but they manage on “What You Do”). Even if you are generally hostile toward unabashed catchiness, this is delicious. I’ve listened to “Room with a View” and “It’s Now” like forty times.
More on Imperial Teen: www.imperialteen.com / www.myspace.com/imperialteen.