Student Life Archives (2001-2008)

Album a flame with rock and roll

Bernell Dorrough

Electric Six
XL Records
For fans of: Tenacious D, the White Stripes, the Village People

“Fire,” the debut album from the Electric Six, is sure to divide listeners. A mix of the most ridiculous and over-the-top elements of rock and roll history-new wave, disco, space-age funk, and ’80s hair-metal-with self-referential lyrics and a heavy dose of juvenile sex humor, the record comes across as one big joke. What separates the Electric Six from a mere novelty, however, is how seriously they take the execution of that one big joke. When it works, it works well. When it doesn’t work, it’s just annoying.

Coming out of the same Detroit garage rock scene that produced the Dirtbombs, the Come Ons, and most notably the White Stripes, the Electric Six are quite a departure. Most songs pulse with a simple disco beat on the verses, blasting into a cheesy rock stomp on the choruses. Singer Dick Valentine is overly bombastic, overdramatic in the realm of Jack Black when handling his Tenacious D duties. The guitars are funk chicken scratch or distorted-but-cleanly-processed power chords. The basslines are simple but funky.

The song titles give a strong impression of the band’s maturity level. The album moves straight from the opener, “Dance Commander,” in which Valentine sings in a faux-German accent, to “Electric Demons in Love,” a hair metal blast. “Naked Pictures (of Your Mother)” follows with a sound that owes most to Tenacious D.

The album’s highlight was an unlikely hit in Britain. “Danger! High Voltage,” featuring the White Stripes’ Jack White on guest vocals, is an infectious new wave dance song, mixing punk and disco in an exciting way. This song, if nothing else, proves that the Electric Six is not merely a bad joke. With its fractured lyrics-“Fire in the disco! Fire in the Taco Bell!”-synthesizers, body-moving beat and a nagging guitar riff, it is the strangest song on a strange album. It is also by far the album’s best track-here the sense of fun and the sense of craft make for good music.

Elsewhere, the bad jokes and hyperbolically silly music make for annoying, rather than exciting, music. “She’s White,” “I’m the Bomb” and “Synthesizer” do not make for easy listening. The most sophomoric joke on the album, however, does make for a catchy tune. “Gay Bar” mixes surf rock, garage rock and a huge heavy metal solo with the most childish lyrics imaginable to create a song that is a pleasure, even if it is a guilty pleasure. Several videos have been made for the song, one of which involves Abraham Lincoln in a Speedo and another of which has George W. Bush and Tony Blair synced up to the song’s refrain-“I’ve got something to put in you . . . at the Gay Bar.”

The Electric Six are a one-joke band. If you like the joke, you’ll like the album. If you don’t, it’ll be the longest half-hour of your life. Grade: B- Final Word: A one-joke album that’s mildly funny.

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