Back in the mid-'90s, Imperial Teen charmed critics and indie audiences with their simple, hook-filled songs and friendly stage presence. The band members, Roddy Bottum, Will Schwartz, Lynn Perko, and Jone Stebbins, traded instruments and turns at the microphone. Onstage they looked like good friends hanging out, and it was easy for the audiences to smile along with them.
But you know what happens to groups of friends. Someone moves out of town. Someone gets married. Everyone finds something that takes a lot of their time. And so Imperial Teen disappeared for more than five years before returning this year with The Hair the TV the Baby & the Band. The album title explains the long absence: Stebbins started a hair salon, Bottum explored a career in TV music, Perko (now Lynn Truell) got married and had a baby (she's pregnant in the photos accompanying the album), and Schwartz got busy with his other band, Hey Willpower.
I realize this is a little odd to say about a band whose biggest hit is titled "Yoo Hoo," but Imperial Teen's secret weapon was always their lyrics. Often written by Schwartz, the songs touched on gay identity, prostitution, and stalking, all wedded to sing-along choruses and peppy tempos. On the new album, they're about...well, let me just quote "One Two": "Rummaging the lost and found/ While she is getting ultrasound/ Measuring it by the pound/ I'm not done sleeping around." You can bet that neither Schwartz nor Bottum is the father. No, that's the point of view of a guy whose friends have moved on to other things.
IMPERIAL TEEN, The Casbah, Saturday, December 15, 8:30 p.m. 619-232-4355. $14.