When the Electric 6 released their debut album, Fire, in 2003, the singles "Danger! High Voltage" and "Gay Bar" gave Dick Valentine and co. international hits that would allow the band to tour the world. It looked very much like the band formerly known as the Wild Bunch would follow the White Stripes out of Detroit and into mega-stardom. Except things didn't quite work out like that. In fact, a 2005 cover of Queen's "Radio Gaga" aside, the Electric 6's flirtation with mainstream success was over almost as soon as it began. And that's just plain wrong.
See, the Electric 6 in 2010 are a far better band than they were in those chart-bothering days. Front man Valentine (real name Tyler Spencer) has evolved into one of the finest pop songwriters to emerge from the Detroit area since the Motown posse. After an early revolving door policy, he seems to have settled on a group of bandmates that he's justifiably happy with, and the recent output has been stunning.
Last year's Kill album was the band's finest up until that point, and Zodiac tops it. From the opening new wave party stomp of "After Hours" to the closing dance-floor-favorite-in-waiting that is "Talking Turkey," every track appears to have been genetically engineered in a lab with the aim of infecting the part of the brain that makes the body jive like John Travolta in Saturday Night Fever (and yet not feel the least bit ridiculous).
With no disrespect to Valentine's fine songwriting, the best song on the record happens to be a cover, but what a cover. Local legends the Spinners' 1976 hit "Rubberband Man" is treated respectfully while being thrown into the Electric 6's disco-rock world.
They might not be global stars anymore, but they're still together, they're still representing metro Detroit with pride and, most importantly, they're still making slamming music.
Brett Callwood writes about music for Metro Times. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.