[15 February 2010]
If there was only one band around to put the art in fart, the fun in funk, and the rage in garage it would be Electric Six. Hailing from the dystopian hodgepodge that is Detroit, America’s favorite blend of factory fallout, corruption, and suburban sprawl, it’s no surprise that Dick Valentine and his wild bunch would produce music as diverse and unpredictable as their home city. On Kill, the group’s sixth album in thirteen years, the only thing you can be sure of is the overwhelming compulsion to sing and dance, and not necessarily in a fashion approved by your local high school’s sock-hop committee.
The grooving beat and sexual innuendo of “Body Shot” tells me this is exactly the kind of jovial irreverence Electric Six is gunning for. Their style is only structured insomuch as it gives them a template to share quirky musical ideas that defy easy categorization and lyrics meant more to amuse than provoke thought. “My mind is no place to raise a family,” Valentine sings on “Waste of Time of Money,” and that’s just the tip of the irony iceberg that listeners will either love or hate. Where some detractors might find that lyrics apropos of nothing but a vague titular concept are detrimental to a band’s overall quality, I’d that it allows one to relax and enjoy the experience as it comes. It also creates something memorable without relying on the triteness of popular rhymes schemes, and half the battle of musical longevity is avoiding redundancy.
Besides, who wants to hear the inequities of love all the time when there is an “Escape from Ohio” or an “Egyptian Cowboy” to discuss? Sometimes substance can only be derived from a lack thereof. “Steal Your Bones” is an ode to grave-robbing played out as a greasy ‘80s hair metal song, and “Newark Airport Boogie” is a bouncy electro-pop opus that delivers exactly what it promises. But no matter how frivolous the approach of Electric Six they can’t help but touch on some truths with frightening exactness, as on “I Belong in a Factory”. With less good-humor than usual Dick Valentine sings “We separate the chaff from the wheat/ Today’s middle class is just so bourgeoisie,” going on about how the bluecollar backbone of America is largely ignored and deliberately kept divided by class barriers. Accidental or not, the message is clear and powerful, and proves that Electric Six isn’t entirely cut from the same mold of weirdness as bands like Primus and most Mike Patton projects.
After the power ska of “You’re Bored” and the synth-driven “White Eyes” – which sounds like it could have been something by the Presets – end there is a feeling of just having survived a bender under the auspicious glow of an all-night bowling alley. Somehow the whirling, twirling, and slightly evil ADD jukebox that is Electric Six hasn’t killed you, despite their honest intentions, and you’re a stronger person for it. Kill careens from pop rock to cheesy metal to variations on funk throughout its duration, propelled by the energetic imagination and musicianship of the band like an all too phallic torpedo. Electric Six is still a juggernaut to admire, so buckle up and ride the lightning.