On a good night Track Star, shifting from wistful boy-lost-girl lyrics to a screaming growl that demands the listener's empathy, are as emotive and paralyzing as their excellent 1995 EP Sometimes What's the Difference. On a bad one they're a low-rent Archers of Loaf. Hope for the best.
We should be suspicious of 30-year-olds writing pop songs, especially if they come from the mouths of folks who have pedigrees like Faith No More and Sister Double Happiness. Headliners and Bay Area attention-getters Imperial Teen would be a brilliant band if their parts -- simple instrumentation, catchy melodies, clever lyrics with a spiteful bite -- added up to their logical sum. But the quartet somehow fails to make it work. Instead, their debut, Seasick, like their bouncy live show, is formulaic and smug: something that, in a few years, you'll be embarrassed to admit polluted your CD collection. Teenage Fanclub's Bandwagonesque comes to mind -- you never cared for them much after their singles, right?
-- Jeff Stark
Imperial Teen, Track Star, and Henry's Dress play Friday, Jan. 24, at 9 p.m. at the Great American Music Hall, 859 O'Farrell. Tickets are $7 in advance and $8 at the door; call 885-0750.