Critic's Choice

Ima Robot

Had George Orwell lived long enough to see 1984, he might have thought bands like Spandau Ballet were a more terrifying prospect than Big Brother. Then again, Orwell hailed from the same merry olde land that introduced the world to T. Rex, Gary Glitter, Slade and Bowie's shrill alter ego, Ziggy Stardust -- four major influences on the synthetic '80s-era sound of smog-choked Los Angeles. You know, back when Reagonomics and atrocious haircuts were considered bitchin'. Trampling new wave roses in the name of yesteryear, Ima Robot, who performs an all-ages show Wednesday, January 21, with Magic Cyclops and Black Black Ocean at the Larimer Lounge, deserves every bit of criticism it gets for being another flock of derivative seagulls. But give the shameless Hollywood five-piece credit for honing its amusing sonic assault with a chameleonesque twist of punk, electro-pop, funk and garage rawk. Boasting a crack rhythm section (bassist Justin Meldal-Johnsen and drummer Joey Waronker have both played supporting roles to Beck, Mars Volta and the Vines, among other notables), the band is anchored by visually outrageous frontman Alex Ebert: a hyper, rail-thin, gold-slippered goofball who's living proof that mullet irony is alive and kicking. Cynical and sleazy, Ebert reserves his poetic pretensions for love, war, mathematics, girls who drive black Jettas, and the molecular breakdown of carbon-based life itself ("Just dust from the earth/And some heavenly puke for the glue," he sings on a stirring ballad called "What Are We Made From?"). Poised for blastoff with a radio-ready sound, a self-titled debut on major label Virgin and MTV exposure from a video directed by Francis Ford Coppola's nephew, the Robot celebrates a message less disturbing than its messengers. It's almost enough to pull a safety dance on Orwell's grave.

 
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