Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

Imperial Teen: On [Merge, 2002]
After two major-label efforts that I doubt made a cent, this is unabashed art for art's sake--a subsidized hobby, only it's a label rather than a papa laying out the cash and expecting personal fulfillment through creative expression in return. Pop isn't an ambition for these smart people with other things to do, it's a discipline--the tunes strong, the beats solid, the vocals lightly yearning and pungently sweet. As if they've actually been listening to the radio (watching MTV, more likely), they bear down on the rhythm tracks, which I hope doesn't mean they think the whoos and handclaps on "Baby" will get buzz-binned in this day and age. They'll tour, fill small venues, sell some T-shirts. And to what end? The chance to make yet another album this near-perfect right on schedule, in 2005. A-