I always felt that Chris Leo’s band The Van Pelt ended too abruptly. Along with ex-Blonde Redhead guitarist Toko Yasuda, the duo released two superior albums and a handful of singles, ending abruptly in 1997, the duo reformed quickly as The Lapse, and continued on making similar-sounding music. In fact, I wondered why they even bothered to change the name, as they continued making music that sounded like their previous band. Imaginary Third, then, was a surprise; the title being a “what if” as to what a third Van Pelt album would be like, using previously unreleased material, as well as the three songs from their farewell single, The Speeding Train.
It’s really hard to understand the logic about why these songs weren’t good enough for release the first time around. Opening number “Infinite Me” kicks off the affair, and finds Leo doing his patented Kim Gordon-style spoken word/rapping style, while the band provides a jerky, angular yet sparkling and catch background. It’s easily one of Leo’s best songs to date. “The A, B, C, D’s of Fascism” is also a highlight, with Leo delivering a polemic about the state of the nation. “Three People Wide at All Times” is the kind of noisy, loud post-rock epic that always stood out when the band played live.
Still, better late than never. The band recently reunited for a handful of live dates, and while it may or may not spark a greater reunion, it’s good to have Imaginary Third, because it shows that they went out at the top of their game, even if took seventeen years to learn that.