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What is Not to Love

music reviewmusic review  out of 4 Music Review: What is Not to Love

Artist: Imperial Teen
Genre: Rock/Pop
Release Date: February 1999

Review by LarryG
2 stars out of 4

Imperial Teen was originally a side project of Faith No More keyboardist Roddy Bottum. It was a chance for Roddy to be in the spotlight and try a lighter, looser sound than in his hard rock group. His band showed a lot of talent for creating interesting pop songs. Imperial Teen's first record, Seasick, was a lot of fun with buoyant songs like You're One and Butch, which simulated the giddyness of a teen romance, and cocky rockers like Waterboy and Blaming the Baby. Now Faith No More is no more and Imperial Teen is Bottum's day job. It still sounds like the band is having a good time making pop confections. Unfortunately, the quality of the songs is not as high on What is Not to Love as it was on Seasick. It starts well with 4 good songs. Birthday Girl is an irresistable song. It's restrained on its verses, which create a nice picture with Will Schwartz singing of an interesting, emotional young woman and then the guitars and drums build and the song explodes into the chorus with great big rock guitars. The band has a good collaborative vibe and a smartass sense of humor. Both come out in Yoo-Hoo. The band members create a spooky, forbidding atmosphere in their playing and layered backup vocals. Meanwhile, on lead, the bratty voice Schwartz often uses is appropriate as he plays a self important "big shot rock star" Lipstick is a straight ahead rocker that might be the best song on the album. Over a great driving beat Bottom alludes to his homosexuality, mocking a rock star's efforts to separate herself from her past: "why you got to be so proud, I'm the one with lipstick on." After the good start, the band moves away from its strength, its ability to make light, interesting rock and pop songs. Alone in the Grass, apparently an environmental awareness song, is a misguided attempt to make a trippy psychedelic song. It's somewhat interesting but takes way too long to get where it's going. Then comes the nearly catatonic Crucible. The band rights itself on the Beginning, which has a nice sassy edge with buzzing guitars, Bottum's filtered vocals and a nice groove driven by fun backup vocals. But the rest of What is Not to Love is largely unmemorable. Year of the Tan is interestingly made as Schwartz and drummer Lynn Perko sing overlapping lyrics. But the actual content of the lyrics(he wants to dance, she doesn't) isn't much and Schwartz' whining is annoying. Hooray starts with a nice groove but doesn't go anywhere and Schwartz becomes irritating as the song progresses. Imperial Teen are an interesting band and you can't blame them for trying different things. But they work best when they focus on what they do best: making great pop songs.



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