When Imperial Teen formed in the mid-'90s, their sugarcoated pop sounds stood in sharp contrast to their punky roots. The first piece of information usually offered up about the band was that their principle songwriters, Roddy Bottum and Lynn Perko-Truell, had ties to alt-thrashers Faith No More and Bay Area punk institutions like the Dicks and Sister Double Happiness. Those heavy connections were largely immaterial to Imperial Teen's vibrant pop sound, one that subverted the still-all-too-macho grunge trappings of the time with openly queer lyrical themes, coy co-ed harmonizing, and heavy doses of power pop hooks, understated humor, and sleazy grooves. As the band progressed over the next 20-odd years, their sound matured without mellowing. Sixth album Now We Are Timeless follows its predecessor Feel the Sound by seven years, and while the songs speak to the journey the members of Imperial Teen have been on together, many of the core elements of their sound remain intact. Subdued album-opener "I Think That's Everything" is a gentle tone setter, introducing lithe harmonies over a bedding of electric piano chords and synth sounds that come and go. This mood is quickly erased by the punchy swagger of "We Do What We Do Best," a slab of edgy pop in line with the band's best work. The time between albums grew as the years went on, but the band's signature sounds are untouched by this. Dialed-down tracks like the springy and melancholic "Walkaway" and the grittier, feel-good rock of "The Girl" would all sound at home in almost any era of the band's evolution. At this point all four bandmembers live in different parts of America, and NWAT was assembled through remote collaboration. This process can be felt on moments that come across more like solo songs fleshed out by sending files back and forth than a band playing together in the same room. Those moments are in the minority, however, and for the most part the group presents a bouncy cohesion despite the album's long-distance creation. While there's a somewhat more thoughtful tone to some of the material here than in their earliest work, Imperial Teen have always approached their music with a certain self-awareness. That self-inspection never eclipses their keen sense of arrangement, songcraft, and back-to-basics pop core that has been central to the band for their entire run. Even stitched together from four different states while looking at aging and uncertain futures, these ten songs are simply more of Imperial Teen doing what they do best.
Now We Are Timeless Review
by Fred Thomas