Winnipeg Free Press, Friday May 23, 1980

Frank Soda wears hats well

By Glen Gore-Smith

Imagine Wild & Crazy Guys Steve Martin and Dan Ackroyd as the zany Czechs doing a parody of heavy metal rock musicians.

These Saturday Night cut-ups would probably shave their heads, perform in long john pants, sneakers, gym shorts and tee shirts.

FRANK SODAOne of them might dramatize several songs by wearing a devil-horned hat; an exploding TV set; a flashing Instamatic on his head; or a blinking electric-bulb suit.

Their stage movements would fall somewhere between a frantic puppet jerkiness and the menacing grace of somehow slim Sumo Wresters.

If your imagination can handle this composite, complete the picture with a third member, and you have a hint of what Frank Soda & The Imps look like on stage.

The only missing ingredient would be a respectable shot of musical expertise. Frank Soda (lead guitar and lead vocals); Charles Towers (bass and vocals); and John Lechesseur (drums) make a lot of noise for three guys, and some of it, happens to be pretty good.

Soda & Co. have a dedicated cult following in Toronto. Last year they released a debut album titled In The Tube, recorded live at the Picadilly Tube. On the strength of this initial thrust, the theeesome did a pub tour of the west.

They played a bar in Winnipeg along the way, and the people at CITI-FM were impressed enough by The Imps' innovative stage show to arrange a live broadcast.

This year the group released its second album, titled Frank Soda & The Imps. The recording quality surpasses the low-budget production of their first LP. When CITI got wind of another Imps tour, the station jumped in again.

Last night the station presented the act at The Festival Cinema and 500 people piled into the little theatre. If the Festival has air conditioning, the system was not working, and it seemed as if the murky hall had become a final resting place for every atom of volcanic ash that has recently been dumped on this city.

The audience also had to endure an embarrasing opening performance from Manless Stuff. These four talented Winnipeg musicians seemed determined to mimick somebody's movie-born concept of British panache and world-weariness.

The attempt to graft postpunk trendiness to local stock came off as a studied boredom, and the group only managed to impart a kind of rough-hewn and naive Canadian arrogance, which obscured the fact that they played well enough.

Soda and his two henchmen, in contrast, fairly oozed an easy confidence and stage authority that will probably place them in bigger halls in the foreseeable future.

Last night the Imps played all original music: Many songs belied their crazy capers and appearance, and probably rank as good heavy metal. Some of their tunes have what used to be called redeeming social value. For example, Toxic Takeover uses the Missisaugua disaster to portray the crisis, while High Times delivers an optimistic look at the way the world turns.

Other tunes, like, Crazy Girls and Undersexed and Underfed, dramatize the seamy stereotypes of rock musicians. To underscore the message in these tunes, Soda resorted to some slapstick grabs at his crotch.

The Imps even portrayed credible romanticism in the evening's single softer song; titled Beginnings.

The bulk of the concert, however, was comprised of sledgehammer rock laced with cosmetic comedy. During TV People, Soda wore a TV on his head, rigged for a fake explosion at the end of the song. In Take My Picture Please, he wore a flashbulb popping Instamatic.

The Beatles had mop tops; Alice had his snake; Kiss used makeup; and the punkers wore safety pins; but Frank Soda has his technological hats. Whoever said Canadians have no imagination?