Despite trading in its synthesizers for guitars, on new record Imperium, Blouse still sounds like an '80s-adoring pop outfit, albeit one from the tail end of the New Wave era, whose casual dream-pop guitars are occasionally interrupted by light doses of punk. Charlie Hilton's tinny, whispered vocals blanket most of the record, offering a nice counterpoint to the zigzagging guitars on the excellent "Happy Days," while weighing too heavily on slumberous tracks like the Nico-inspired "1000 Years." There's a dull, emberlike glow to Imperium that is easy to get lost in, but the flicker eventually grows monotonous: While "Arrested" approaches Sonic Youth in its noisy, experimental clangor, other songs, such as "Eyesite," feel coldly mechanized. With this album, Blouse shows fits of brilliance within a decidedly overcast mold, but there's a small fire burning within Imperium that, with a little more invention, could be stoked to life.

SEE IT: Blouse plays Star Theater, 13 NW 6th Ave., with Feathers and Litanic Mask, on Friday, Sept. 20. 9 pm. $8. 21+.