You know Sevendust. The white guy with blond braids who looks like the stoned offspring of Perry Farrell and Dee Snider. The black dude with the nest of chest-length dreads. The other three guys providing the chugging backdrop to the snarling and soothing vocals, yet tragically neglected by the band's hair stylist. You know them. I know you do. But name their five best songs. Okay, just name five songs. That's what I thought. Sevendust has always kinda existed in an alternative universe distinct from its peers. That doesn't mean I'm about to give the guys a sloppy blow job. It just means that the band's paradox is that it's entirely memorable and easily forgettable. Its sound stops short of sacrifice-a-virgin-and-bite-the-head-off-a-Republican metal but doesn't quite fit into a cozy, nü-metal niche on Wal-Mart shelves. Sevendust is hard and melodic. Fiery and funky. Passive and aggressive. Spic and span. Arm and hammer. Cock and balls. Tits and you get the idea.
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As for Ima Robot, you'll know if you're a fan within seconds after front man Alex Ebert introduces the band's self-titled debut by saying, "Here's a story for the kids." That's because Ebert sounds exactly like former MTV VJ Jesse Camp channeling Johnny Rotten, a trait that's either annoyingly endearing or simply annoying. If the album started off with "Dirty Life," maybe it'd be a different story. Matching new wave with a sly, funk groove and a chorus solemnly intoning single-word obsessions such as Sex, Passion, Drugs and Fashion gives Ebert something to bounce off of rather than just letting him ricochet aimlessly. When, ten tracks in, Ebert pimps the album on "Here Come the Bombs," requesting in no uncertain terms that listeners buy the album (though he does say please and promises it'll make traffic bearable), anybody who has stuck around that far is probably already planning to take the plunge. The Ima Robot pedigree can't be faulted -- its ranks include Beck sidemen Joey Waronker on drums and Justin Meldal-Johnson on bass -- but it's when Ebert tones the band down from LOOK AT ME! OVER HERE! I'M SPASTIC! LOOK! OVER HERE! to just spastic that Ima Robot turns into a punk-electropop behemoth worthy of a John Hughes movie, though not quite of Breakfast Club caliber.