WELCOME TO THE PLEASUREDOME: The main characters on Innocence Is Full of Pleasure, the recently released debut CD by the Imps, are drummer Dino's cymbals and singer Frank's voice. (The liner notes supply only first names.) We'll come back to those cymbals, which sizzle through the mix like the smell of bacon in the skillet when you know you need to get your ass out of bed.
As for Frank's voice, welcome to the innocent pleasure dome of '80s overseas pop before Hutchence noosed up, Morrissey ditched Johnny Mars and Bono got lost in the TV zoo: This kid has some of those stars' respective strut, moan and clarion call, plus the verbosity of a bookworm on an adrenaline high. Not that he has Hutchence's sex appeal, or Morrissey's moody focus, or Bono's intensity -- not that he always has all that much to say, no matter how many words he has to sing (or, indeed, say -- for a genuine crooner, Frank does a fair amount of rambling apart from melody). But speaking as one who was a painful example of a familiar type -- the local frontman who can't sing -- I rejoice to find somebody scuttling the streets of St. Louis with his band's new CD under his arm and a voice that might inspire a swoon.
The grooves and song forms give our crooner ample support. Bassist Steve is Frank's equal in the adrenaline air show, humming and bumping along in a spirited holding pattern with the vocal. Guitarist Mike is the Robby Krueger of the unit, invisible purveyor of subtle licks and noodles. He can crunch out a radio-ready hook if he has to -- he does on album opener "Shake It" -- but left to his own devices he prefers to slip into the crevices of the songs and creep out. You never really notice drummer Dino, which I think is a good trait in a rock drummer.
But you notice those cymbals, especially that high hat -- or is it just me, knowing as I do producer Adam Long and how happy it makes him to aim $10,000 worth of microphones at a high hat? The production has the finicky charm of a master's touch and the innocence of hands that never mix rock music. Long's forte is rap music; the Imps are his first rockers, but he has mixed for pimps.
Innocence Is Full of Pleasure should be out in local record stores. The artwork, by Jason Hackenwerth, is both innocent and full of pleasure.