With monikers such as The Colonel, Tait Nucleus?, and Smorgasbord!, and a catalog that includes an album called I Shall Exterminate Everything Around Me That Restricts Me From Being the Master, the Detroit-based sextet Electric Six is often mistaken for a novelty act parodying the aggressive sexuality of disco and arrogant posturing of rock and roll.
But the band’s frontman, Dick Valentine, chafes at the suggestion that the Electric Six are anything short of straight-faced. “Cynical, yes, but not satirical,” says Valentine, whose real name is Tyler Spencer, in a phone interview with Washington City Paper. “Novelty is something that you premeditate, and you’re doing something that you wouldn’t normally do because you want to call attention to yourself or you want to sell more records. And with this band, it’s always been my path of least resistance—it’s just that these songs come naturally… I don’t think we’re trying to make a statement about other types of music in that way.”
On the Electric Six’s new album Kill, out today, the band cuts the usual synth-driven dance rock with some disarmingly sweet monster ballads: “Steal Your Bones,” for instance, is a beautifully composed song that might have cracked the pop charts in the early ’90s. It runs back-to-back with another casually paced ballad called “My Idea of Fun.”
Elsewhere, the band goes after Middle America with “Escape From Ohio,” a takedown of the Buckeye State and its mysterious stranglehold on American culture. “It’s not just a bellwether state in terms of elections,” Spencer says, “but it’s where a lot of products are test-marketed. So if, like, the housewives in Columbus like something, they’ll make more of it for the country.” (The band has tactfully avoided scheduling Ohio dates on its current tour.)
Kill contains some of Electric Six’s most lush, sophisticated songwriting—both musically and lyrically. Spencer is unashamed to say that his music has historically fallen somewhere between “clever and stupid,” but the new record leans toward the former. “I think this is really the only album so far where we want to make sure we play every song at a live show,” Spencer says. Satire might be in the eye of the beholder, but danceability is universal, so Electric Six’s show tomorrow night at the Black Cat should be appealing to everyone—except perhaps housewives from Columbus.
Electric Six performs at 8 p.m. at the Black Cat on Wed., Oct 21. Tickets are $15