Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Imogene - Imogene (2006)

Rating: 7.2

Imogene is a new band who gave earned some attention for their semi-unique instrument combination and the places they take it, and it’s not hard to see why. Using a distorted eight string bass, a four string bass, keyboards, and drums, Imogene attempt to keep themselves away from retro throwbacks, and, with that goal in mind, have released their self-titled debut. Imogene is a very good album, combining psychedelic elements with strong grooves with atmospheric keyboards and just the slightest hint (at times) of heaviness. In their own words, if one had to reference them to other bands, they might be called “Pink Sabbath” or “Radio Queens of the Stone Head.”

Both of those are certainly good analogies. Every so often (such as in the song “Paper Dolls”), a riff comes by that calls to mind memories of Paranoid, perhaps even backed (again, as in the case of “Paper Dolls”) by the types of keyboards that wouldn’t sound out of place on “Shine On You Crazy Diamond” or one of Radiohead’s more atmospheric works. “Seraphim,” on the other hand, is almost pure Radiohead, what with the tight drum beat and the very Hail to the Thiefesque keyboards, admittedly with bass instead of guitar, though that’s a small subtlety that doesn’t really shine through. That song looked more at the atmospheric end of Radiohead, however, and so we also have “Not to Be” and “Wasteoids,” which take their cues from heavier, crunchier Radiohead songs like “Myxamatosis.” I’ve admittedly not heard Queens of the Stone Age, so I can’t compare, but given the accuracy of the first three comparisons, I can only assume it holds true for the fourth. In this sense, they don’t quite succeed at their goal of not sounding retro. They sound different, for sure, but much of what they do finds very strong roots in older, established sounds.

But, as I said, they do sound different. The vocalist gives the music a very drugged-out atmosphere, taking a cue or two from stoner rock. Just give “Wormwood Raindrops” a listen. Or just listen to any random song, and you’ll hear something different. That’s the key success of this album. It manages to reference a lot of well-known and well-liked bands and musical styles, then combines them in interesting manners to create compact, concise songs that simply work well together. Indeed, despite the variety of influences present on the album, it sounds like a remarkably cohesive whole. The quality is almost unchanging throughout (though I will note that the last two songs are significantly weaker than the rest), making for a remarkably even listen. Nothing really stands out (though I do have an affinity for “Wormwood Raindrops” and “Seraphim”), but nothing lets down either (until the end), meaning that I can listen all the way through without ever finding myself bored. That is itself quite an accomplishment.

Thus, even though Imogene haven’t quite conquered the retro aspects of their sound, they have managed to create an excellent CD that stands up well on its own but also leaves plenty of room for improvement. I fully expect that these guys will achieve even greater heights in the future. In the meantime, however, I think I’ll just through on Imogene again.

And again.

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