The Review

The Imps turn the kids loose

By R. Jeff Rosenzweig

The El Mocambo isn't my favourite club. Sure, Elvis Costello and Graham Parker played there. Sure Margaret Trudeau's "cute bum" played there. Sure the Rolling Stones played there. Mick Jagger probably sings in the shower, but I wouldn't want to make a pilgrimage to his bathroom.

No, I went to the El Mo last night because The Imps were there. And I came out of the bar feeling glad that they're back from their tour of the wild West.

FRANK SODAIf I were fifteen, hailed from Downsview or Burlington, wore Kodiaks and had to pay some friends older brother to buy my beer for me, The Imps would still be my favourite band. As it is, even though I have one foot in middle age, this band is still way up there on my list.

Simply speaking, these guys just get better and better. Last year, I thought they were damned good. This year I think they're brilliant. And last night's show, which was taped by Q107 for later broadcast, was something of a milestone in the Imp story. Back from a successful Western tour, with one great album already under their belts and another just in the can, The Imps seem poised to broaden their audience beyond the suburban Teddy Boy crowd to embrace the more sophisticated folks who frequent places like the El Mo. Not that any of us in last night's audience acted sophisticated.

Not at all. We screamed, whistled, spilt beer I pounded the tables with real teenage abandon. And it wasn't just the brew that drove us to such abandon (though it certainly didn't hurt). It was heavy metal.

The calendar says it's 1980. The rock papers tell us that new wave and Eurodisco are the nazz. But the throbbing in my head and the tremors in the floorboards told me that heavy metal is far from senile. The Imps play their kind of music with none of the pompous ponderousness of Black Sabbath, or the cosmic karmic pretention of say, Rush. Heavy Metal is fun. That's the only message that Imp music makes, and the only one worth paying attention to.

Mind you, the heavy metal ambience may be central to the band's style, but they offer a lot more. One listen to Frank Soda's sly octave harmonics on "Beginnings" from the forthcoming album will convince anybody acquainted with the guitar that Soda knows his stuff. The man plays with a speed and precision that would make Montoya perk up his ears.

And as for bassist Charlie Towers and drummer John Lechasseur, there's no better rhythm section in town. Their respective solos were high calibre, but in their lockstep synchronisation (especially during the Cro-Magnon beat of "Toxic Takeover") they proved themselves the equal of Soda's high-register hysterics.

"Beginnings", a ballad was the sole change of pace throughout the show, and it led me to believe that The Imps may someday fulfill the original promise of Toronto bands like Rush and Max Webster. There was complexity and sensitivity in ample quantities, but at no time was the crucial dedication to heavy metal given short shrift. Soda's machine-gun solo and Towers' bass pedal work kept the crowd in an uproar even at ballad tempo.

Older material like "Break the Ice" and "Turn the Kid Loose" was rendered with fervour, and greeted with it by the crowd. Soda's penchant for bizarre headgear continued unabated, with cameo appearances by an oversized Instamatic, a television set and the charming "Fuck Me" hat.

After seeing last night's show, I'm set to wear out my copy of The Imps Live at the Tube. And once that's bitten the bullet, I'll be found queuing up outside Sam's with half a million denim-clad young'uns, waiting for the new album to hit the stands. Right now, I'm just counting the days.