Album Review: Electric Six – “The Human Zoo”
When Electric Six burst onto the scene in 2003 with the ludicrously popular and hugely catchy Danger! High Voltage, they seemed like a novelty act that would quickly lose its lustre and fade into obscurity. This seemed all but confirmed by the gimmicky follow up in the form of Gay Bar, and the pseudo disco comedy that permeated every second of their debut album, Fire. Yet, here we are almost a decade later and Electric Six are still going strong, albeit it with numerous label and personnel changes. Dick Valentine’s baby lives on, and new album The Human Zoo has everything one would expect from an Electric Six album.
Electric Six have quite a distinctive sound, mixing chunky, yet entirely palatable riffs with a funky disco sound grounded in synthesizers, and all of this is present in suitably large amounts on Human Zoo. There are several highlights within the opening moments of the album, including Karate Lips, which feels like a raunchy version of The Karate Kid told from the perspective of the Cobra Kai, It’s Horseshit which is a disco funk adventure, and Alone with your Body, which is apparently an ode to necrophilia. Such is the Electric Six way.
As the album powers on, we get into slightly more bizarre territory, with tracks like Gun Rights, which consists of one line repeated for the duration of the song with a samba backing beat, and I’ve Seen Rio in Flames a huge sounding orchestral number. (Who the Hell Just) Call my phone is an evocative 80’s style pop song, and Good View of the Violence is a synthy delight, with an almost 8-bit retro gaming feel.
Perhaps one of my favourite moments on The Human Zoo is I need a Restaurant. Valentine really amps up his vocals, in what can only be described as a vague Meat Loaf parody. It’s a style that Electric Six are well suited to, and as a result this creates a real high point during the album.
Finally the album closes with The Afterlife, showing Electric Six’s ability to provide a good balance of bittersweet ballads along with the electro madness we’ve all become accustomed to.
Over all, The Human Zoo is an excellent album. Dick Valentine’s vocals are spot on as always, and every track walks that fine tightrope between the ludicrous and the sublime with expert balance. Of course there will always be those who point to Electric Six as a comedy band, and to an extent this is true, but there is a genuine craftsmanship, and impressive musical chops to go with that sense of fun and parody that often seem to get overlooked. The Human Zoo is no joke, and is well worth your time and your money, despite never quite reaching the dizzy heights of Fire or Senor Smoke, this album is solid from start to finish.