By Jacob Sundstrom
Featuring none of the pop that made The Submarines a hit, none
of the lyrical depth found in music by Arcade Fire and none of the
catchiness one gets out of a Death Cab For Cutie album, Imperial
Teen’s “Feel the Sound” is repetitive, boring and soulless.
The group’s fifth album is their first effort since 2007 and
comes from years of off-and-on recording, which should give each
track a fresh feel. However, the tracks tend to ramble on with
seemingly little purpose.
“No need to talk about/ I rather walk about/ It takes your
breath away/ Take you so far away,” croons frontman Roddy Bottum in
“Runaway,” the first song on the album. It’s not an issue of
lyricism alone that plagues the album, it’s the sound.
For instance, 1:27 into “Runaway” sounds a whole lot like 0:55
into “Don’t Know How You Do It.” For that matter, both of those
songs sound the same as 1:50 into “It’s You.” There’s a point where
a band stops having a sound, and instead has a mold.
After listening to this CD five times, the listener should be
able to pick out the memorable songs and know when to press the
skip button on the player. “Feel The Sound” had a lack of
distinction from song to song, making each song feel like the same
paste slathered across 40 long minutes.
The San Francisco-based quartet doesn’t offer anything
particularly insightful lyrically, and the synthesized quality of
many of the songs identify the lack of a true singer among the
group. There are no highs, and there are no lows in the songs; the
rests at lukewarm, never truly engaging the listener.
A heavy reliance on chorus also plagues the album. The fourth
track, “Over His Head,” repeats the same line, “He’s in over his
head” a solid eight times before drifting right into “He doesn’t
know what’s happening/ It doesn’t know what’s happening/ Never
knows what’s happening.”
A bright spot in the album is track three, “Last To Know,” which
features memorable lyrics and a pleasing combination of male and
female vocals, something the band is known for. “Were you the last
to know/ Were you the last to go,” starts the track, before
going into the poppy chorus, one of the few times the album
touches the speed limit.
“Feel The Sound” frustrates like driving behind a mustang going
60 miles per hour in the carpool lane. The potential is right
there, but the passive restraint makes the entire album feel like a
waste of time and space, a mere shell of what the group is
Imperial Teen may have a cult following, but it doesn’t have a
personality, something that should be impossible to say about any
alternative rock band. It’s all about presence, poise and
personality; Imperial Teen only has presence in the way that the
physically exists, and exudes none in “Feel The Sound.”
Courtesy Merge Records
Imperial Teen – Feel The Sound
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