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Haircuts, hipster cred, psychosis: Ima Robot's got more to offer than "Black Jettas."

Wednesday, Jan 7 2004
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It's ironic that Ima Robot 's biggest indie "hit" off of its fantastic debut record is the hidden, uncredited gem "Black Jettas." The hilarious song (which is hardly emblematic of the band's sound) is marred by a hideous nod to the electronica craze of 2001-02, but buoyed by the sharp lyrics of lead singer Alex Ebert, lyrics in which he likens his ex-girlfriends to black Volkswagen Jettas, noting how he sees them everywhere and how they all "look the same." But it would be sad if "Black Jettas," funny as it is, were what Ima Robot was ultimately remembered for, because the group's self-titled CD has several standout tracks, songs deserving of the same attention that the band's kitschy calling card is receiving in clubs and on college radio charts.

Indeed, this L.A. five-piece is a talented bunch, boasting hugely sought-after musicians, like Joey Waronker (ex-R.E.M. touring drummer and session drummer on tracks such as the Vines' "Get Free") and Justin Meldal-Johnsen (Beck's bassist for eight years). On its debut, from the Suede-esque swagger of "Alive," to the frenetic, Devo-meets-Gang of Four finesse of "Dynomite," Ima Robot runs circles around Jet, or any other supposedly "tight" bands ruling the altrock airwaves these days. And though Ebert comes across as a bit precious and all too ironically self-aware on tracks like "Here Come the Bombs," in which he rails against consumer culture while knowing full well that his own band just signed to Virgin with ease, you gotta cut the singer some slack: His mother is an actress and his father is an L.A psychotherapist -- he's fucked, for sure. The occasional snide pretension notwithstanding, Ima Robot more than carries its weight on record, and live. You may come for "Black Jettas," but you'll leave thinking you've just seen a tweaked-out Wire fronted by Bowie.

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Charlie Amter

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