Thursday, October 9, 2008

The New Duncan Imperials -- End Of Phase One (2008)

The New Duncan Imperials -- End of Phase One (Pravda)

This veteran Chicago trio has been a mainstay of the Chicago rock club scene for years. They might not play out as much as they used to, but the Imperials are always a party waiting to happen.

The band’s first foray into the studio in eight years finds the Imperials sounding fresh and excited. The basic recipe is amped up rock with a sloppy punky vibe a la The Replacements, The Dogmatics, The Smugglers and The Service, the Dekalb, Illinois band that featured some members of The Imperials.

The band gets into it right away on "High School Soul". While there’s a sloppy punky vibe, there’s also some trad hard rock moves going on here. On this track, the verses are built on quick sharp guitar chord slams -- this has worked for everyone from AC/DC to Webb Wilder -- followed by a really driving chorus, augmented by Paul Mertens, the "one man horn section." Pigtail sings in an accusatory fashion, detailing the crimes of an immature rocker: "You left the stage a mess/you left the amps on." Yes, this is serious business.

The band continues in this fashion, with a lyrical nod to Cheap Trick, on "I Love You Honey But I Hate Your Band." Insistent riffing and drums that push the song along at a brisk pace keep this rock and roll nag from being whiny. Instead, it’s cocky and brash -- can Pigtail separate the girl he loves from her "shitty band?"

The band has a softer side. One might even say tender. You can hear a very Westerburg-ish thang going on with "Nothing to Do". This is a pithy little ditty, with a jazzy guitar and a happy melody. Pigtail may not be the greatest singer, but he shows that he can be as sincere as he can be snotty.

The band goes a step farther on "What Do People Like?", adding a country vibe. Brian Wilkie guests on the weepy steel guitar. This isn’t one of the stronger tunes on the album, but it’s a nice change of pace.

But the bread-and-butter of this band is high octane burners like "(I Never Got Anything) Off of You" and wry humor, well displayed on the mid-tempo "Land of the Eligible Bachelors". The New Duncan Imperials have done themselves proud with this album. They aren’t trendy, but they are fun, and fun always trumps trendy.

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