Imperial Teen are a sexually integrated San Francisco quartet who
make no bones about their unusual gender commitments. "Why you
gotta be so proud?/I'm the one with lipstick on," sings "looped on
estrogen" ex-Faith No More keyboardist Randy Bottum, who leads this
more modest outfit on guitar and vocals. "You're fucking movie
stars, I'm fucking congressmen." Those lines are from three
different songs on What Is Not To Love (Slash),
but what the songs
mean beyond such evocative moments I couldn't say and don't care.
I listen for the sweetly strange tunes that deepen a jangle-and-drone
style grown so traditional most of its proponents sound bored
these days. Imperial Teen sound immersed instead, probably due to
their gender commitment, which makes them feel they're saying
Sleater-Kinney, the all-female trio led by out lesbians Corin Tucker and Carrie Brownstein, never sound bored either. But Cadallaca's Introducing Cadallaca (K), on which Tucker leads a hard-to-resist "pop" trio drenched in cheesy organ, suggests that the secret of Tucker's freshness isn't her sexuality, staunch though it is. She just has too much music in her to hold inside. The fourth Sleater-Kinney album, The Hot Rock (Kill Rock Stars), is slightly less intense and direct than the first two, so maybe Tucker's side project dissipated her strength a little. But Brownstein has always been almost as big a presence in this band, whose vocal tradeoffs and look-ma-no-bass guitar cross-talk continue to generate enormous drive. I'm not saying you should forget Korn or Sugar Ray, although you might. But these gender rebels can rock.
Playboy, Feb. 1999