Electric Six: Zodiac

This time out, Electric Six add some sober reflections on the semiotics of pleasure in late-modern capitalism. I refer, of course, to lead single “Jam It In the Hole”.

Electric Six


Label: Too Many Robots
US Release Date: 2010-09-28
UK Release Date: 2010-09-27
Label website
Artist website

If this party-rock thing ever peters out for Electric Six, Dick Valentine should give motivational seminars. Businesses, public schools, whoever can afford him. He’s got the booming voice for it, of course, and he knows how to deliver memorable catchphrases like, “The sun ain’t the real reason vampirrrres DIE!!!!”. (Not that he could use that one, per se; he’d adapt.) Picture it: A few hundred office drones crammed into a Hilton ballroom for the sole purpose of hearing Mr. Valentine pontificate about Living Your Vocation with Creativity and Purpose, rasping the ends of his words into curls like Captain Beefheart doing Tom Jones.

Valentine and band debuted auspiciously as the It Novelty Band of 2003 -- “Danger! High Voltage” was the #11 single on the Village Voice’s Pazz & Jop critics’ poll, and the #4 song on the Charlie’s Angels 2 soundtrack. They should’ve gone downhill from there, but the band has improbably sauntered on, despite replacing its pseudonymed lineup almost completely. (Only guitarist Tait Nucleus? remains from that giddy time.) Since 2005, Electric Six have released one solid album every year, toured to consistently midsized rooms, worked minimal variations on their synth rock sound, and pretty much avoided the charts and critics’ polls. (On Pazz & Jop 2008, Flashy tied for the #659 album.) They may yet become the Nazareth of our day.

One big difference: Electric Six rarely record covers. The new album Zodiac tweaks the formula with a strutting rendition of the Spinners’ “Rubberband Man” that’s good fun, despite the fact that it sounds more like Poison’s “Unskinny Bop”. The 11 originals play by the rules -- a set of catchy rockers, creatively arranged and played with gusto by the five instrumentalists, and sold with Valentine’s trademark forced aggression. And it wouldn’t be Les Six without one really bad song -- this time out, a dire Doors-y cabaret called “Table and Chairs”. Somebody should’ve shown them the way to the next whiskey bar.

No matter what he’s singing, Valentine is better than nine of ten rock singers currently working. He’s got machismo, recognizable sound and phrasing, good pitch, and Lord knows he sticks to themes. Zodiac still features plenty of odes to partying and rocking, but adds some sober reflections on the semiotics of pleasure in late-modern capitalism. I refer, of course, to lead single “Jam It In the Hole”. Narrated by “good times” themselves, “Jam It in the Hole” is a tribute to youth, rock ‘n’ roll, dildos, free love, Courtney Love, and “the market value of our soul”. Valentine also offers trenchant critique in “It Ain’t Punk Rock” (“‘til the punk rockers say it’s punk rock!”). Two other songs, “American Cheese” and “I Am a Song!”, out-meta anything on Jamey Johnson’s latest opus. As an absurdist, Valentine’s equally at home evoking Beefheart (“That’s where her majesty dines on perpendicular lines!”) and Dr. Seuss (“In the writings of the druids / Lies a recipe for druid fluid / Sounds like a most refreshing drink to me!”).

The band sees Valentine’s evocations and raises him some direct quotes. Different songs lift the piano part from “Rock the Casbah” (“After Hours”), the sax part from “Baker Street” (“Doom and Gloom and Doom and Gloom”), the beat from “Pump It Up” (“Punk Rock”), and the gang vocals from a hundred P-Funk songs (“Clusterfuck”). There’s plenty more, and none of it has shit to do with anything else. If I understood Nietzsche better, I might call the effect “decadent”. But that would be OK, because Electric Six are in the decadence biz, and those goofy non sequiturs and aphorisms are what the audience pays to hear. You can tell these guys really love their day jobs.

Oh yeah, rumor has it the 12 songs on Zodiac correspond to the 12 signs of the zodiac. I’ll let you figure out how.







Greta Gerwig's Adaptation of Loneliness in Louisa May Alcott's 'Little Women'

Greta Gerwig's film adaptation of Louisa May Alcott's classic novel Little Women strays from the dominating theme of existential loneliness.


The Band's Discontented Third LP, 1970's 'Stage Fright', Represented a World Braving Calamity

Released 50 years ago this month, the Band's Stage Fright remains a marker of cultural unrest not yet remedied.


Natalie Schlabs Starts Living the Lifetime Dream With "That Early Love" (premiere + interview)

Unleashing the power of love with a new single and music video premiere, Natalie Schlabs is hoping to spread the word while letting her striking voice be heard ahead of Don't Look Too Close, the full-length album she will release in October.


Rufus Wainwright Makes a Welcome Return to Pop with 'Unfollow the Rules'

Rufus Wainwright has done Judy Garland, Shakespeare, and opera, so now it's time for Rufus to rediscover Rufus on Unfollow the Rules.


Jazz's Denny Zeitlin and Trio Get Adventurous on 'Live at Mezzrow'

West Coast pianist Denny Zeitlin creates a classic and adventurous live set with his long-standing trio featuring Buster Williams and Matt Wilson on Live at Mezzrow.


The Inescapable Violence in Netflix's I'm No Longer Here (Ya no estoy aqui)

Fernando Frías de la Parra's I'm No Longer Here (Ya no estoy aqui) is part of a growing body of Latin American social realist films that show how creativity can serve a means of survival in tough circumstances.


Arlo McKinley's Confessional Country/Folk Is Superb on 'Die Midwestern'

Country/folk singer-songwriter Arlo McKinley's debut Die Midwestern marries painful honesty with solid melodies and strong arrangements.


Viserra Combine Guitar Heroics and Female Vocals on 'Siren Star'

If you ever thought 2000s hard rock needed more guitar leads and solos, Viserra have you covered with Siren Star.


Ryan Hamilton & The Harlequin Ghosts Honor Their Favorite Songs With "Oh No" (premiere)

Ryan Hamilton's "Oh No" features guest vocals from Kay Hanley of Letters to Cleo, and appears on Nowhere to Go But Everywhere out 18 September.


Songwriter Shelly Peiken Revisits "Bitch" for '2.0' Album (premiere)

A monster hit for Meredith Brooks in the late 1990s, "Bitch" gets a new lease on life from its co-creator, Shelly Peiken. "It's a bit moodier than the original but it touts the same universal message," she says.


Leila Sunier Delivers Stunning Preface to New EP via "Sober/Without" (premiere)

With influences ranging from Angel Olsen to Joni Mitchell and Perfume Genius, Leila Sunier demonstrates her compositional prowess on the new single, "Sober/Without".


Speed the Plough Members Team with Mayssa Jallad for "Rush Hour" (premiere)

Caught in a pandemic, Speed the Plough's Baumgartners turned to a faraway musical friend for a collaboration on "Rush Hour" that speaks to the strife and circumstance of our time.


Great Peacock Stares Down Mortality With "High Wind" (premiere + interview)

Southern rock's Great Peacock offer up a tune that vocalist Andrew Nelson says encompasses their upcoming LP's themes. "You are going to die one day. You can't stop the negative things life throws at you from happening. But, you can make the most of it."


The 80 Best Albums of 2015

Travel back five years ago when the release calendar was rife with stellar albums. 2015 offered such an embarrassment of musical riches, that we selected 80 albums as best of the year.


Buridan's Ass and the Problem of Free Will in John Sturges' 'The Great Escape'

Escape in John Sturge's The Great Escape is a tactical mission, a way to remain in the war despite having been taken out of it. Free Will is complicated.


The Redemption of Elton John's 'Blue Moves'

Once reviled as bloated and pretentious, Elton John's 1976 album Blue Moves, is one of his masterpieces, argues author Matthew Restall in the latest installment of the 33 1/3 series.


Whitney Take a Master Class on 'Candid'

Although covers albums are usually signs of trouble, Whitney's Candid is a surprisingly inspired release, with a song selection that's eclectic and often obscure.


King Buzzo Continues His Reign with 'Gift of Sacrifice'

King Buzzo's collaboration with Mr. Bungle/Fantômas bassist Trevor Dunn expands the sound of Buzz Osborne's solo oeuvre on Gift of Sacrifice.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.