Dick Valentine in a Box
Detroit party-rock quintet Electric Six spent much of 2005 and 2006 searching for a great punchline to match 2003â€šÃ„Ã´s joke hit “Gay Bar” and the Jack White vehicle “Danger! High Voltage.â€šÃ„Ã¹ Instead, their latest effort, Switzerland, does for them what Pieces of the People We Love did for the Rapture: It displays growing consistency and skill without actually delivering a true knock-‘em-dead single.In a particularly seedy musical neighborhood, the band works a corner at the intersection of Scissor Sisters neo-disco, They Might Be Giants quirkiness, and roots a la Southern Culture on the Skids. These influences have so many tongues in cheeks that the songs of Electric Six can’t help but recall an orgy, a bawdy gathering that observers may find engaging or repulsive — or both at once.
Electric Six make no claims to be a perfect band, and Switzerland is far from perfect, especially when lead crooner Dick Valentine beats you over the head with a joke or when his storetelling seems vapid or ill-timed. “Slices of You” hammers home cannibalism as a “recipe for love” while “Germans in Mexico,” with the protagonist “falling in love with your daughter,” initially suggests Natalee Holloway’s disappearance instead of the assassination tale it really is.
When E6 fire on all cylinders, though, watch out. “Pulling the Plug on the Party” and “Rubber Rocket” are bouncy synth-backed rock tracks, while Valentine’s imagination has shining moments such as a band roster with Hitler on drums (“The Band in Hell”), how to use a particular California post office box (“I Buy the Drugs”), and the wonderfully sleazy “Infected Girls.” If the Grammys or some such ceremony ever gave away an “A for effort” award, you can bet Electric Six would be up for it.