Side projects of musicians that are part of iconic acts tend to be fairly unremarkable (Broken Bells a notable exception). We all want Radiohead not Thom Yorke alone on Eraser [Ed. Note: Speak for yourself!]. Imperial Teen is one of indie rock's most long-lived side acts to the point that frontman Roddy Bottum is now more associated with this than his original group, 90s alternative metal pioneers Faith No More. Imperial Teen's newest album Feel the Sound is more a combination of power pop and New Wave post-punk, but whether you're long time fans of these queer alt-rock trailblazers or just hearing about them for the first time, Feel the Sound is a fun escape into the sort of playful and self-aware rock that isn't as popular in today's overly serious indie market.
Feel the Sound is an undeniable relic from the mid-90s and an age where Courtney Love (Roddy Bottum's former Faith No More bandmate) was only a partial trainwreck, but when the guitar hooks are this sharp and the lyrics so catchy, you can forgive Imperial Teen from being stuck in the age that birthed them. The two best tracks on the album, the toe-tapping power-pop of "Runaway" and the organ-fueled alt-rock of "Out From Inside," would have been just at home on late 90s college radio. "Out From Inside" is such a subtle head-bopper though that it has the legs and substance to catch on today. It has this intangible quality that recalls some of the really successful crossover rock tracks of the late 1980s/early 90s, particularly INXS.
The most impressive aspect of the album is the variety of sounds it covers while never stretching itself too thin. The band regularly channels the feel of 80s post-punk groups like The Cure and The Smiths (as opposed to the New Romantics influences shaping so much of modern indie rock) on "Don't Know How You Do It" or "Hanging About." If you're wanting the next big evolution of modern rock, you should keep looking, as Imperial Teen cling to their roots. Yet, if you grew up with a love of 90s alt pop, Imperial Teen's talents haven't gotten any less tangible with age. Fun music is fun music, and even if Imperial Teen are simply retreading old ground, Feel the Sound is an undeniably entertaining trip to the past.
Check out Imperial Teen playing the FADER Sideshow in our archives.