Imperial Teen

“Runaway” – Imperial Teen

Perky and concise, “Runaway” has an old-school feel about it, which I guess is not surprising, since Imperial Teen is one of those rare indie bands that has been around long enough to be legitimately old-school itself. Founded in San Francisco in 1994 by Roddy Bottum, then of the band Faith No More, this boy/girl, four-person side-project has now lasted longer than Faith No More did. Remember that whenever you try to predict the future.

“Runaway” is a simple song with vintage-sounding keyboards (Supertramp, anyone?), ELO-esque vocals and such a firm bounce that I can clearly imagine a throng of people on a dance floor (old-school-style, of course) all shouting along with the “Go in! Go out!” part. With arm gestures. Which I will leave to your imagination. The production here is at once big and contained—well put together, with a bright sound, but not bombastic. The melody is basic in a way that recalls children’s songs, but then there’s that unrelenting drumbeat that kind of opposes that impression. Pay attention, by the way, to the one time the drummer opens it up just a tiny bit, during the short instrumental break at 2:47: it feels like a mini-revelation. This also happens to be the first time we can hear the guitar on its own. A pithy moment, but to me it seals the song.

Albums have been intermittent for Imperial Teen over the years; Feel The Sound, coming out at the end of the month on Merge Records, is just the band’s fifth. “Runaway” is the lead track. MP3 via KEXP.

Photo credit: Marina Chavez