Ever so often you get a record so cool, it’s almost worth putting up with the lame copy protection scheme to listen to it. Ima Robot’s eponymous album falls firmly in that category, with a fast, clever upbeat post-punk sound and a proprietary player that wants to modify your computer before you can listen, assuming you have the authority to make the mods it wants. Welcome to the 21st century, where even unknown bands want to take over your computer.
Let’s start with the sound. Ima Robot tunes in one notch on the punk side of power pop, with clear vocals, tight guitar and synth work and blessedly audible and intelligent lyrics. Yeah, Ima Robot is worried about war and politics and all that junk, but politics never stand in the way of clever sounds. Lead track “Dynomite” takes a few old nursery tunes and brushes them up until you can’t recognize them, and it’s not until you’re getting that first blush of dance floor sweat that you see what they’ve tricked you into. They keep pounding out the semi-hits through the second cut “Song #1” to “A is For Action,” at which point a few slower songs appear, showing us that the “Power Ballad” is NOT restricted to large-haired metal bands. Short and to the point, this band has the potential to blast out of obscurity and appear on MTV, if anyone still pays attention to that channel anymore. But be warned, all of this presupposes you can get the stupid disc to play.
Listening to this album on your computer requires a proprietary Ima Robot player AND administrator rights, which means workplace listening is severely curtailed. Does your IT department trust you to fiddle with your registry? If not, pass on this record, because the disc casually drops a hint that it must “Update a few files” on your system before you can listen. I do complicated, horrid things to computers, and don’t appreciate unexplained software installs and removals. It’s too easy to do collateral damage, and NOT appreciated. While this easy-to-work-around protection may slow the casual copier, it’s a well-known system any 8 year old can crack, and will do more to piss off potential fans than return revenue to Ima Robot. Yeah, there’s a vague warning on the back of the disc indicating “playback problems on some equipment,” but you’re on your own to sort that out, and they do NOT say just what is required to listen to this album. Even if you seek this disc out, which I recommend, you may never hear it, which is a shame. My advice: keep your receipt.