As David St. Hubbins said, “It’s such a fine line between clever and stupid.” With their second album in one calendar year, the Electric Six tromp all over that fine line, combining party rock anthems with lyrics that are sometimes so inane, they’re brilliant. In one form or another, Detroit’s E6, as their fans call them, have been around for over ten years, but still somewhat languish in the realm of the `underappreciated.’ That’s in the United States, mind you. In England, it’s a whole other story. This band, which lies somewhere between Tenacious D and Spinal Tap, or They Might Be Giants and Meatloaf, or Rocket from the Crypt and John Waters, is huge in the UK, with three top ten singles. Is there something in the Electric Six that the sons and daughters of Albion see that we don’t? Do they have a better sense of humor than we do? The answer to both of these questions is probably yes, as E6 is a raucous and energetic group that seemingly has no end to their comedic rocking ways.
Why call the album Switzerland, you may be asking? The album itself is dedicated to tennis phenom Roger Federer who has made 2006 the year of the Swiss by winning three majors already. Could that be the reason? The press sheet explains it thusly, “In the book of Revelation it is written, `When God was done laying down the law from Dan to Bathsheba, He needed a place to kick back and yodel and a place where His infinite riches could earn 20% and where He and His family could be spared the wrath of the Nazi war machine. It was on that day that God created Switzerland.'” Well, that certainly explains things. This sense of humor and irreverence is what makes Electric Six a much needed rock institution.
The spaghetti western-esque “The Band in Hell” kicks things off on Switzerland, and as you can imagine, Hitler plays drums, the `dev-eyul’ (as singer Dick Valentine pronounces it) plays guitar, and Valentine himself is on the mic. The upbeat “I Buy the Drugs” is sure to be become a fan favorite, playing like Jack Black fronting either OK Go or the Barenaked Ladies. And believe me, it sounds much better than how that presents it. “Night Vision” turns the Foreigner sound on its head. “Infected Girls,” which is, yes, a song about how having sex with unprotected girls is `better,’ sounds like a castoff from a more severely rated Ghostbusters director’s cut. “Pulling the Plug on the Party” brings back that late ’70s / early ’80s sound, the kind you’d find packing a K-Tel compilation. “Rubber Rocket” (now how’s that for a title?) features the second appearance of Dick Valentine mentioning that he’s `going bananas,’ reminding me of the fact that their album Fire was so named because of the repeated appearance of the word. “Pink Flamingos” celebrates the infamous redneck lawn ornament. “I Wish This Song Was Louder” about says it all in the title. “There’s Something Very Wrong With Us So Let’s Go Out Tonight” is somewhat of a pastiche of their buddy Jack White’s music. Short closer “Chocolate Pope” is one of my favorites as the “Italian candy with SWISS chocolate flavor is such a delicious way to save her.” The falsetto singing of the title just seals the deal.
Okay, I just figured out where the Electric Six came from. In some `Championship Vinyl’ type store in Detroit (rather than Chicago or London), there is yet another Barry character, eschewing the monikers Sonic Death Monkey or Barry Jive and the Uptown Five, singing his songs about how `Angina’s tough.’ That band became the Electric Six. The reason that E6 is so great, and also the reason as to why the Brits probably appreciate them a little more than we do, is that they’re not a serious rock band, they’re not trying to be, and in fact, they’re reveling in it. Rock and roll was always about sex, dancing and cities on fire, and Electric Six are just reminding us of that truism.
Tenacious D- The Pick of Destiny
Electric Six- Señor Smoke
Foreigner- Double Vision