I’m going to state this simply. Senor Smoke by Electric Six is an awful album.
It’s not that I’m against fun, garish, ironic music. Les Savy Fav? Indeed. McLusky? Yes please. Art Brut? I can dig it. What do these outfits have that Electric Six does not? Brains. You can be fun and smart at the same time. In fact, most people would be of the opinion that in any sort of art, these two characteristics are mutually dependent.
What’s that you say? Electric Six isn’t interested in creating art? Hmm. Am I supposed to say then, that if this is the case, Senor Smoke is an amazing album? I don’t think so.
Senor Smoke consists of one cheesy-bad electro garage rock song after another, which draw upon what most of us hate about music from the late seventies and early eighties: murky, over digitized synth work, predictable power chord progressions, and needlessly overwhelming bass lines. There’s a reason the artists who are advancing the modern music scene don’t mimic hair bands and disco rock: it’s terrible music. There’s no refinement, no technical intricacy, no thought.
If you tell me this is the point, that what makes Electric Six innovative is its total lack of respect for the compulsion in today’s music scene to progress for the sake of progression, to create noise for the sake of being able to say I’ve made something unlike anything ever before created, then I’m going to come right back and say that Rob Schneider is a comedic genius. It’s not even the fact that Electric Six isn’t doing anything new. If this album was melodic and full of hooks and beautifully classic pop structures, than I could at least respect a variation on a theme. If it was aesthetically pleasing in the least I wouldn’t have a problem. But what we have here is Dick Valentine talk-screaming in his annoyingly frenetic, raspy voice over various tracks that all sound the same. Electric Six practices no restraint, yet there is nothing pushing the envelope of musical risk-taking. Simple beats, choppy yet boring guitar work, and atrocious lyrics inundate what could have been an interesting experiment in lofty indie pop backlash. If the lyrics were cleverly sardonic it would perhaps salvage a part of this album. Instead we’re subjected to banal, gratuitous, outdated references (“We’ll karaoke all night long/We’ll Macarena till the break of dawn”) and social criticism as profound as the musings of any sixteen-year-old, angst-ridden poet (“Stevie's joined a corporation/Another bee for the beehive/Johnny makes love to a dummy/Says, ‘Ain't it good to be alive?’")
It’s painfully obvious that the men of Electric Six are in love with themselves. It’s one thing to reject trends. It’s one thing to make music that is purposefully unpleasant. But when you regurgitate crap people were regurgitating two decades ago, and you don’t have any good reason to do so, if you’re creating idiotic music as easily as an idiot would, I’m sorry, but you can’t expect anyone to give a shit about what you’re doing. Putting out a bad album isn’t a matter of a band’s confidence in its ability to be ironic. It’s a matter of a band thinking so highly of itself that it doesn’t care if it wastes the time and money and eardrums of the people who give it the opportunity to record its bad music in the first place. On Senor Smoke Electric Six tries too hard (or not enough) to be pop culture whores, and the result is unimaginative and anything but ironic. It’s revoltingly indulgent and…well, stupid.
Electric Six plays the Double Door on Monday, March 27.