Stating that it’s harder than ever for bands to be heard is scarcely a revelation; there is more music available than ever before. And yet that also means there’s more disposable filler; when searching through so many artists all competing for attention, one thing is surely essential for those who break through: a cracking melody that won’t leave your brain for months.
Imperial Teen have always been striving to write as many of these as possible. Throughout their career, which is fast approaching two decades’ worth of output, they’ve channeled some of the poppy-yet-biting tone of ’90s alternative rock and the urgency and menace of new wave whilst possessing some sweet male/female harmonies. Led by Faith No More keyboardist Roddy Bottum, they have proven that they have a good ear for pop hooks and structure, even if certain songs in their discography recall former glories all too easily.
The release of Feel The Sound, the band’s first album in five years, is not going to be greeted with shock and surprise from their fanbase. There is something reassuring about the fact that their driving momentum hasn’t diminished over time and, even if the tweaks to their sound are minor, the songs they’re writing are still strong on melody. Everything about tunes like Runaway sounds like it has been meticulously crafted to ensure that it gets plenty of radio play. Elsewhere, Out From Inside might be no-frills but it does the job perfectly well, as does Over His Head, which – like a lot of the tracks here – is anchored by a precise rhythm.
They run the risk of being a bit too familiar, and the lack of range in dynamics is notable. This is especially the case when their few softer moments not only recall the best moments of Mates Of State but are also highlights overall; Don’t Know How You Do It is striking simply because it’s the closest they get to taking it easy following the high-tempo energy of the LP’s first half, and Overtaken offers a subdued goodbye, albeit one filled to the brim with airy synths. More songs of this order would provide some much needed balance.
As satisfying as some of the new material is, it leaves Imperial Teen with a unique conundrum; to continue to build and refine something that might not require much more fine-tuning, or challenge themselves by going down a different path entirely? Surely they can’t keep doing what they’re doing forever, especially if the results are hit and miss. Past form suggests that a different avenue in the future for them to explore could be some way off.
Feel The Sound provides, when they’re on form, a reminder of how reliable they can be at creating crowd-pleasing indie pop. This will not go down as an album of power-pop classics, nor will it act as a classic in their own back catalogue. But for the most part it is, in its way, perfectly enjoyable.