The Imps turn the kids
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.
If 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
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
"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
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.
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.