Heartbeats AND Brainwaves!
11 October 2011
Too Many Robots
by Ruth Booth
Electric Six are that band. Like Rick Astley, 2-Unlimited, The Wombles… Whatever’s happened since, you have to have a smidgeon of respect for a band who, when it came to the song that they’re most synonymous with, cut a promo of twenty horny Abraham Lincolns in the White House gym. Ok, just a smudgeon of respect, then. But I bet I could count on one hand the number of you who haven’t, in the heat of a dank nightclub, shrieked like Jack Wh-, I mean, “John S O’Leary”, on ‘Danger! High Voltage’. Yeah. They’re THAT band.
You’d be forgiven for thinking Electric Six had dropped off the edge of the Earth since GAY BAR GAY BAR GAY BAR. That’s because they did. However the fact they’ve (apparently) released seven albums since then suggests that, just off the celestial firmament, there’s a recording studio and mobile disco channeling the brainwaves of Hoxton teens. Why Electric Six haven’t regained their profile is baffling. Half these tracks wouldn’t sound out of place on an ad for E4.
Heartbeats AND Brainwaves! is chockful of Thatcher/Regan era nostalgia. Opener ‘Psychic Visions’ is a Numan-meets-Bad-Seeds slow burner, ‘Gridlock!’ boasts a ‘Hey Mickey’ bubblegum bounce, while ‘The Interchangeable Knife’ is ripped right from the theme tune to The Bionic AirRider. Christ, weren’t the eighties just GREAT? Despite boasting the perkiest album title punctuation I’ve seen in ages (a capitalised conjunction AND an exclamation mark? (!)), it’s a homage with a twist, mostly down to the lyrics. Arguably the best track on here is the tenth, a glorious eighties fantasy epic about – wait for it – bonding over unisex hair products. I couldn’t work out if it was more a homage to Labyrinth-era Bowie or Toni & Guy. Half the comedy of those lines comes from Dick Valentine’s vocals – the Vegas twin of Nick Cave, with pronounciation that trumps Schwartzeneggar for silliness (see track 9 – Bleed for the UHHTEEEEEST). He may have attracted Freddie Mercury comparisons, and ‘Food Dog’ does sound like a psycho’s ‘Fat Bottomed Girls’, but until he teams up with Katherine Jenkins for a chart-topping rendition of ‘Cwm Rhondda’, I’m reserving judgement.
If you’re expecting fourteen tracks of GAY BAWR or DANGER DANGER HIGH VEULTEEEEG then you’ll be disappointed. Only ‘Gridlock!’ really has the kind of hook that scrapes at their past hits. For the most part it’s a well executed homage to 80’s electro with cracking lines. And for a band who fully admit that 90% of their tunes are about bugger all, this is no bad thing. If it existed solely for good times – yelling daft lyrics and dancing like a loon in dodgy nightclubs – it’d be a job well done. Problem is, there’s just too damn much of it. They don’t help themselves with filler like ‘Heartbeats and Brainwaves’, seemingly tacked on the end just so there’s a title track, as well as something to muck about with in the mixing sessions.
Having said that, if you want some high polished electro-pop-rock-disco nonsense, tackled with an irreverence somewhere between Queen and the Mighty Boosh, you could do a lot worse. In the end they’re still THAT band. But since I’ve only got enough generic sticky labels to declare Andrew WK the quintessential Party Ambassador of Rock, that makes Electric Six… what? The House Band?
Top Tracks: Psychic Visions, Gridlock!, We Use The Same Products
Sounds Like: Gary Numan, Duran Duran, David Bowie, that new promo for E4 where they’re all dancing backwards.