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Standout Track: No. 1, “There Is No Translation,” a brutal slab of postpunk malaise. Crushing guitars and sirenlike keyboards wail over Pitchblende alumnus Patrick Gough’s jagged backbeat, as frontman Brian Porter delivers disjointed free verse in the Arthur Rimbaud/J. Robbins tradition. (Two keepers: “Arrogance in apathy” and “Fickle hands lead to bad ends.”) Guitarist Matt Johnson provides supplemental percussion, turning up the cowbell over a punishing Jesus Lizard groove, before Porter restates his ambiguous ennui. “I think I need another fate,” he sings. “Maybe it’s life in this town.”
Musical Motivation: Imperial China’s creative process comes straight from the mid-’90s alt-rock playbook—turn up the distortion, crank the volume, and sing something later. “I like lyrics that are abstract enough where the listener can take anything they want from them,” Porter says. “All the vocals are an afterthought.” “There Is No Translation” was itself conceived as an afterthought—the trio threw the track together right before recording with Devon Ocampo and liked it enough to kick-start Methods. “The song kind of wrote itself,” Porter says.
Bar Band: Porter, 29, is a member of a species indigenous to D.C.—the lawyer-musican—but it’s hard to miss the song’s anti-D.C. sentiment. “[D.C.] feels small sometimes,” says Porter, who moved to Mount Pleasant from Minnesota to study law at Catholic University, where he started playing with Johnson. But in his defense, he’s not ready to indict the whole city. His personal complaints “aren’t against the community,” he says. “We’re not morbid or frustrated individuals.”
Imperial China plays the Velvet Lounge on Saturday, May 10.