Less Melotron, More Electricity -- by Alex Goldberg, March 2006
A Look at the Greatest Detroit Electro- Synth Dance Rock Group of All Time
Why are you here? What is your purpose? Dick Valentine, the lead singer/lead guitarist of the Detroit band Electric Six casually states with air of Churchillian certainty, “We came here to chop off your arms and feed them to Senator Majority Leader Bill Frist.”
Truer words have never been spoken. Or perhaps they have been, either way; Dick’s answer is both thrilling and mystifying. What does it take to exist as the greatest Detroit electro-synth dance rock group of all time? Is it talent or hard work from hours of practice? Does it come from a natural charismatic quality or is it the charm and powers of seduction/manipulation? Is it that raw, grit control that comes from years of practice and determination, celibacy and meditation? The simple answer is hard work and youthful determination, but Electric Six seeks not the simple path. For this band of steel city hoodlums, the answer is, quite clearly, “Wheatgrass juice, we hate our parents, knife fight, head trauma, knowledge of music industry and how it works, posturpedic mattress.” Double, double, toil and trouble, fire burn, and cauldron bubble… Electric Six has concocted a witch’s cauldron of talent and are serving dance rock for dinner. Open up.
There is not one way to explain the soul of Electric Six; of who they are, of where they want to be, of how they struggle daily in order to fulfill their destiny and sustain their legacy as prophetic dance commanders on the decibel highway [one way ticket from Hell/Detroit]. The problem with music today is that there is not enough or any electricity. What do I mean by electricity? I obviously do not mean the physical phenomena arising from the behavior of electrons and protons that is caused by the attraction of particles with opposite charges and the repulsion of particles with the same charge. However, that’s not too far off from what I’m thinking. Isn’t rock and roll about the attraction of opposite charges and the repulsion of particles with the same charge? If it is not, then it certainly should be. The White Stripes typify this sense of rock electricity in that two seemingly different talents, Jack White, a naturally skillful musician matched up with Meg White, a Siren who sinks ships with her rudimentary drumming. Jack, the proprietor of talent and Meg, the proprietor of adorable basic percussion formed the White Stripes and electrocuted the world [specifically South America and Coney Island] with their devilish tantrums. Many wonder why Jack, the talent did not choose a more skillful drummer. It has been suggested that perhaps Jack should have merged talent with Lenny Kravitz’s drummer, a supposed equal talent, but, this would only have caused a “repulsion of particles with the same charge.” Rock is electricity and rock stars are magnetic demons with wet hands in an electrical socket.
What happened to the Battle of Gettysburg of rock and roll music? What happened to rock and roll? What happened to giving everything you got on stage and sleeping with groupies [off stage] while experiencing visions of grandeur [in the mind], and then, the people still demand an encore? Electric Six is one of these bands, however, it has to be noted that it is complete speculation whether they participate in kinked out groupie love. But if they don’t, they should. For anyone unfamiliar with Detroit topography, as I am, the exposure to the lifestyle can be found in such cinematic classics as 8 Mile (2002), or the Blaxploitation film Detroit 9000: Visit the murder capital of the world--where the honkies are the minority! (1973). Valentine explains, “we came from 12 Mile. That is to say, we spent our high school years debating whether Fables of the Reconstruction or Life’s Rich Pageant was the best R.E.M. album and we whined and threw tantrums when our parents refused to buy us a new Playstation.” When the “we” of the current Electric Six weren’t playing Playstation or letting the funk flow during sprightly REM debates, they were busy forming the band “The Wildbunch”, or in the vernacular of their German audience, “Der Wildbunchen.”
While talking to Valentine, I wonder whether there was some type of Divine or Biblical type of spark that helped form “The Wildbunch.” Valentine comments, “The genesis of Electric Six was a local Detroit band called “The Wildbunch” which formed in 1996. It was comprised of five people who all went to the same high school, but never really knew each other in high school. We decided to form a band and the same band was signed to a record deal in 2002. ‘The Wildbunch’ then became ‘Electric Six.’ Then a year later, half the band quit and we brought in the guitar players that are in the band today.” Beginnings are usually uneventful but exciting, the middle years are interesting but boring, and endings are tragic but sometimes beautiful, as in the case of the 2004 film The Notebook. There is no doubt that Electric Six-as such, are in their beginning stage, and with the recent release of their sophomore album, “Senor Smoke” there is a lot of exciting anticipation with the prospects of this band and their new album. “Senor Smoke is a much more mature record than its predecessor. If you like maturity, you’ll love it. If you want Gay Bar, Part 2, you’ll get Devil Nights instead. Use your imagination…John Hentch from The Hentchman is on this album.” Valentine adds, “You must buy this album because I am putting my kid brother through college.”
Electric Six are being accused by many of committing the crime of creating comedic rock music. They are being accused of creating a mockery of the dignified dance rock scene, a genre that has no room for laughter. However, Electric Six are not as exclusive as most dance rock, and as Valentine states, “There’s a little room for everything.” Rock music, if it still exists today, needs diversity, it needs openness to various elements, and it needs, simply stated, electricity. Humor and rock are the positive and negative charges that fuel the said band. If the juries of journalists are accusing Electric Six of parodying rock music, then they have not heard of Weird Al Yankovic. Electric Six does not attempt a mockery of a genre, nor is there any hint of irony in their music. Electric Six are shockingly genuine, and surprisingly have a bizarre appreciation of 80’s glam/dance rock. It is not a crime to love 80’s glam/dance rock, although, that’s still open to debate, but Electric Six pulls it off. The electricity of rock music abandons all pretentious arrogance or blathering lies about rock star modesty. Electricity is to enjoy, to relax, to ride the groove train to decadence and never go home. As Valentine states, “If you guys are ready for a hockey puck slamming into your teeth at 125 mph, then you are ready for us.” That’s rock and roll. That is electricity. I think it’s about time to get this party started right y’all.