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Published: 2011/04/05
by Brandon Findlay

The Imperial
The Imperial

Aiming for a hybrid of classic rock swagger and 90’s alternative punchiness, Milwaukee-based The Imperial open their self-titled EP in such fashion. “The Finish Line”, with big guitar vibratos and crashing drums under singer/guitarist Andrew Kobelinski, moves past simple riff rock with a dedication to dynamics and desire- to sound big, to rock hard, and so forth.

One hat trick Hendrix perfected is the ability to rock hard while sounding happy, and “Miranda” bounces between the joyful intro riff and a chunky secondary feel. Guitarist Louie Pahl has surely studied staples like “Mississippi Queen”, as his single notes and chords intertwine without losing steam. Of the four tunes on the platter, “Miranda” has the best jamming in the middle section, indicating that this may be the winner live as well.

“Professor Downtown”, a post-Spin Doctors lyrical wink at “Kid Charlemagne,” brings the volume down, but by verse two is chugging along at the same rate we have grown accustomed to. Solid guitar by Pahl again, but, likewise, some of the mystery is running thin.

Ending on a high note, “Where Did You Go” ratchets the tempo and intensity up a bit, and the change is welcome. Chris Baldoni on drums and bassist Josh Capistrant provide a certain, charmed garage funk, and Kobelinski’s lyrics have a touch of fire, but the song ends just as the listener is waiting for them to explode into somewhere new.

The best kind of recording either makes a statement, or sets a mood, and The Imperial gets a foot pointed in both directions without fully stepping towards either. On one hand, we get a taste of a band that could grow into having some windows, if not doors, opened for them. They are certainly on the radar.

That said, the album is challenging, being, for lack of a better phrase, a taste of a taste of what it could have been. There are nice moments by all four players, but there is a need for polishing to ease up on some of the repetition and simplicity. The lyrics bear the brunt of this; the stories and characters are present, but the impression is absent. Spending most of the disc in power trio mode, both Baldoni and Capistrant have a fundamental appreciation for “tight but loose”, but don’t fill the emptiness at certain key moments. Overall, a solid first volley from a band worth watching, and a disc worth your first spin.

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