Even in the MP3 age, there are CDs worth searching out–that require the search. “O.O.P., We Did It Again” is dedicated to great albums that are criminally out of print–and that aren’t necessarily likely to become available anytime soon.
The album: Seasick (Slash, 1996), the poor-selling but fiercely beloved debut of California indie-rockers Imperial Teen.
Classic material: Led by ex-Faith No More keyboardist Roddy Bottum and then-early-twentysomething singer-songwriter Will Schwartz, who traded off songs and lead vocals (with wonderful backup singing by bassist Jone Stebbins and drummer Lynn Perko, now Lynn Truell). The songs are classic college rock in form: strummed guitar and straight-ahead beats, simple tunes sung with little affect, with Schwartz’s phlegmy yowl upsetting the balance just enough.
Highlights: Schwartz and Bottum are both gay, and when their songwriting touches that topic (see “Butch” and “Balloon”) it does so in a smartly matter-of-fact way. “You’re One” alludes to Kurt Cobain’s suicide note (“Peace and love and empathy/You’re one, you’re one/Tie me off I wanna be/Shooting up the enemy”). All of it is wrapped up in the kind of melodies that give bubblegum, even indie-rock bubblegum, a good name.
Why it’s out of print: If this band had come along at any point before the mid-’90s, they’d have gone straight to an indie like Merge, which has put out the last two Imperial Teen albums (including a brand new one, The Hair, the TV, the Baby, and the Band). Instead, a major subsidiary snapped them up, and now you can’t find their great debut or it’s excellent follow-up, What Is Not to Love (1999).
Chances it will return to print: Reasonably good–it’s not hard to see the right label, or the band itself, buying out the rights and reissuing it with bonus extras on an indie. Or maybe that’s just wishful thinking. Still, if the new album does well it’s not impossible to imagine.
Cost for a used copy: Amazon has it for as low as $2.03.