Breeders, Imperial Teen | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Breeders, Imperial Teen

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It's a testament to the tenacity of Kim Deal's musical vision that, despite the nine-year wait, the Breeders' new Title TK (4AD/Elektra) sounds so much like a wonderful sequel to 1993's Last Splash--the platinum-selling album that produced the alt-rock hit "Cannonball." For years a new Breeders album, let alone a good new Breeders album, hasn't even seemed worth hoping for. Since 1994 they've been sidelined by drug problems, aborted recording sessions, and a series of unstable lineups--the only members left from Last Splash are Deal and her sister Kelley, who both sing and play guitar (they pursued their own projects, the Amps and the Kelley Deal 6000, throughout the mid-90s). In early 2000 Deal's long search for the right sidemen ended in a New York bar, where she enlisted guitarist Richard Presley and bassist Mando Lopez, young members of the long-running California punk band Fear; she and Kelley moved to LA to join them, and before long they had enough new material to go into the studio with notorious analog loyalist Steve Albini, Deal's engineer of choice. The album is recorded beautifully, and musically it's anchored by the same trustworthy elements as the Breeders' earlier stuff: an appealingly sloppy lattice of sideways riffs, jagged lines, and occasional power chords, along with the almost conversational harmonies of the Deal sisters. Kim's restrained voice can still deliver a killer pop hook, and the empathy between the new players--Presley, Lopez, and 22 Jacks drummer Jose Medeles--helps create a terrific tension between the rhythm section's discipline and the sisters' wobbliness. The songs use dynamics and space in a way that sometimes make them sound like they're about to collapse; sometimes tunes hydroplane along evenly, almost to the point of tedium, then explode in a burst of punkish hammering or thin out suddenly as the drums and bass drop out. San Francisco's Imperial Teen haven't had to survive years on life support like the Breeders, but they did weather the mid-90s major-label alt-rock feeding frenzy exceptionally well: dropped after a pair of decent outings on Slash, the band resurfaced this year on the indie Merge with their finest and cheekiest album yet, On. They have a predilection for 80s rock and an encyclopedic grasp of timeless pop verities--the synthesizer washes in "My Spy" make it sound like Rod Stewart's "Young Turks," while "Baby" sometimes seems about to turn into Devo's "Sloppy (I Saw My Baby Gettin')"--and they execute all their tunes with a taut, twitchy new-wave attack that might sound robotic if the hooks weren't so catchy. Saturday, July 20, 7 PM, Metro, 3730 N. Clark; 773-549-0203.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Peter M. Van Hattem.

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