We've been waiting a year to hear Dick Valentine scream it. "Your body is something I might not survive, so bite me. Bite me!" But now that, um, "Bite Me" and Señor Smoke have finally been released stateside the album hit the UK more than a year ago, but label issues (i.e. not having one) delayed its domestic arrival it's immediately apparent that, for the Electric Six, the shtick remains the same. And maybe that's OK.
E6 lyrics are still catchphrases torn from fast food menus, and every vocal exclamation sounds like a porn set non sequitur. "You scorcher, you scorcher!" Valentine bellows in "Be My Dark Angel." "Fry an egg on your face girl/You're scorching me!" Smoke again celebrates exploding dance floors and weird sex in dark rooms, the same hedonistic sentiments that percolated so wildly through Fire in 2003, and the album's underlying disco cheeze burbles like a night-dwelling hobgoblin's mix tape piped into the sound system at your local Kmart. It's designed to scare day-trippers and square mothers. But really, it's just not that scary. Never was. E6's mix of platform boot stomp, sluttastic keyboards and stadium guitars is really just a monstrous red-light-district cartoon, a funhouse mash-up of they-should-know-better genres in search of the eternal party.
Of course, most people like to party, so there's a built-in audience for this kind of thing. And Señor Smoke certainly delivers the cheap thrills. Opener "Rock and Roll Evacuation" is rumbling and stupid, its piercing keys and super-size fuzz a reiteration of Andrew WK's party-till-you-puke aesthetic. (Valentine also gets in a political jab "Mr. President, I don't like you!" but even that's whittled down to a fun-size chunk.) Meanwhile, "Dance Epidemic" could be a Toto update, and not only because it nicks from their 1978 hit "Hold the Line." Toto consisted of ace LA studio musicians, able to replicate any sound or groove to a tee. But their approximation was purposely superficial, and it's the same with E6. There isn't a note of sincerity anywhere on Señor Smoke, and that's fine with Valentine et al. Leave "meaning it" to someone else who's pretending these dudes just want you to self-medicate and ravish your neighbor.
Smoke dissipates quickly. It satisfies the bloodstream like McDonald's grease but makes you feel used and empty later, like maybe you just wasted an hour of your life. But who hasn't felt like that on some toxic cloud Sunday morning? In their best moments E6 are superior culture trash garbagemen. They recycle everything that we love in secret, when it's too dark or too late to matter. "Jimmy Carter" quotes the Backstreet Boys, for Christ's sake. They coat this filmy reality show existence of ours with even more grease, selling it back to us in glossy, embossed red cardboard, and we hate them for saying they party harder than we ever might. Electric Six is back, all right. Happy (belated) Valentine's Day.
Johnny Loftus writes about music for Metro Times. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.