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Music Reviews

Screaming Females - Castle Talk
»Screaming Females
Castle Talk
Don Giovanni
Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross - The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
»Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross
The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
The Null Corporation
Deerhunter - Halcyon Digest
Halcyon Digest
No Age - Everything in Between
»No Age
Everything in Between
Sub Pop
Robyn - Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
The Walkmen - Lisbon
»The Walkmen
Fat Possum
Imperial Teen
The Hair The TV The Baby And The Band

Rating: 9.3/10 ?

August 15, 2007
You know those records that are generally well recieved, critically, because no one can think of anything immediately offensive about them? The new Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, Luna's whole catalogue, or Imperial Teen's own On, from back in 2002, for instance. Let's not allow The Hair The TV The Baby And The Band to be one of those. So consistently unhip that they're lucky to still find themselves alternating two chords to an audience in 2007 (we'll see), Imperial Teen have again made one of the best records of the year and again it is one likely doomed to a slew of three stars ratings and 6 out of 10/B+ reviews that don't quite convince anyone to think twice about it. This is my one shot at amending that.

Imperial Teen are currently in the unenviable position of following up the best album of their lives, and it doesn't help that they've spent five years building suspense. "The best/Is a curse," sang Roddy Bottum near the end of On, a curiously self-aware epilogue to a record they probably knew was some next-level shit. If it's not off the mark to suggest they got nervous, the new "Do It Better," picks up where the "curse" left off: "Got a watch that's made of gold/ but I think it's getting old." It would be pretty awesome to see the decade-on quartet addressing the quibbly culture of rock critics ("Think you like to disagree") and throwing a gauntlet down ("Show me how you do it better") but they're too damn sweet for that. "Do It Better" turns out to be an admiration plea ("I like the way you dress/ I like the way you kiss," etc.) that stops just short of being a love song with all that doubtful build up: "I like the way you make me cry." And it's no easier to discern a lurking sadness when the song is as catchy as "Walking on Sunshine," all summery guitar fills and butt-simple chord changes.

Such complex tone-fuckery is nothing new for these guys, who were calling out slutty brides and kissass teacher's pets while Panic! At the Disco were still begging for summer jobs at Hot Topic. In five years, the sarcasm has waned a bit, but nothing's compromised their trance-pop melodies, which are solid as ever. Pulling back from On's serrated edge, they do away with the buzzing synths and locker-gossip putdowns like "Like a dried up pot of glue/ she only sticks when she is wet," (meow!). In favor of what, you ask? Well the title clues are four alternatives to this career, from Jone Stebbins' dotcom-certified hairdressing business to Lynn Truell's new motherhood, so post-rock 'n roll maturity isn't out of the question.

The fun part being that it's not "post" at all; "One Two" rocks as hard as anything on What Is Not To Love, their darkest, kinda Sonic Youth-sounding album, and the irresistible "Shim Sham" is just as reliable for clap and pogo madness as 2002's "Baby." I'd love to hear more hooks like "So pretty! So pretty! So pretty! Oh oh oh oh!" this summer, but it won't be a shame if no one else manages. Now besotted with prog, The New Pornographers' new album isn't gonna have anything as rousing as "21st Century," or anything as lovely as the Yo La Tengo homage, "What They Do." On's laser keyboards make a brief, welcome resurgence on the nonsensical "Sweet Potato," and the piano-plunker "Room With A View" echoes their previous mini-classic "Our Time," updating it with downright euphoric moan-harmonies in the chorus, extended to the bridge for maximum pleasure. The only true surprise is a fluttery falsetto chorus from Bottum on the McCartneyesque "Fallen Idol," which irritates on first listen only because it's so jarring; it interrupts the string of expectedness. Third time around, you'll sing along like on all the others, or Merge should offer a money-back guarantee.

When is the last time an alt-pop record was this blissfully uncomplicated - prime That Dog? Well, it is their second straight album (and second straight masterpiece) produced by that outfit's sadly forgotten mistress of harmonies, Anna Waronker, and her hubby Steve McDonald (ex-Redd Kross). I can't say Imperial Teen is any likelier to find an audience in the Architecture in Helsinki/Sufjan Stevens orchestral-indie niche, though Yo La Tengo fans will definitely feel IT's Velvets-perfected 4/4 pound. But give these criminally ignored popmasters their due so they don't have to run off to the plan B lives they threaten. Give them a chance to show you how they do it better.

Reviewed by Dan Weiss
Dan Weiss is the music editor for LAS. Formerly an editorial intern at CMJ and creator of the now defunct What was It Anyway?, his work has appeared in Village Voice, Pitchfork, Philadelphia Inquirer, Stylus and Crawdaddy among others. He resides in Brooklyn where he enjoys questionable lifestyle choices and loud guitars.

See other reviews by Dan Weiss



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