Review Summary: No crazy was sacrificed in the making of this origin story
It’s no secret that Electric Six are well known for their consistently varied style that draws from a multitude of influences to craft their sound. Unfortunately, I didn’t know this, and if I may say so, Electric Six didn’t do a great job of marketing themselves either. To be personal for a moment, I remember visiting a family friend’s house about ten years ago with my parents, and being the kid in the room, I was allowed control of the TV remote. My parents never had anything other than terrestrial channels, so it was always great to be put in charge of a television set when it had Sky. I did what I always did when put in such a situation; I started surfing the music channels. Eventually, I found myself on a rock-themed channel (I forget what it was), with a band called Electric Six beginning their video. Unfortunately for me, it was the curiously titled ‘Gay Bar’. As soon as my parents noticed what I was watching, I was reprimanded and made to promise I would not watch such filth again (I should probably say at this point, my parents are very strict). I’m not one to fault the child-rearing abilities of my parents, but they genuinely thought that the song was an anthem for homosexual people, prompting some words to be exchanged between me and my father. I never saw him smile again.
Of course, there is much more to Electric Six than pithy song titles; they’re an outfit that prides themselves of genre experimentation, and delivers humorous treatment of such topics as all-male bars and a nuclear war that is, quite literally, on the dancefloor. This treatment is not overtly comical or silly, but rather tongue-in-cheek in an inoffensive, almost curiously benign way, and it precisely this that my parents did not understand. Fire
features a decidedly more rock-focused sound than later releases by the band, but still features a wealth of well-implemented different movements within the sound, such as pop punk, funk rock and heavy metal. There’s even a few ballads thrown into the mix to balance out the insanity of the rest of the album. Electric Six have always done this well; maintained a careful and deliberate control over their chaotic sound, whilst making use of a wide spectrum of different musical influences at the same time. Their song structures are usually quite conventional, but due to the sheer innovation present in every second of their music, this is completely forgivable. Album opener 'Dance Commander' is a great choice for a first track, with Dick Valentine’s insistence of, ‘you musta been a dance commander, giving out the order for fun. You musta been a dance commander, you know that he’s the only one who gives the orders here.’ The song quickly plunges itself into a distorted rock riff and a disco punk style verse section is introduced. Third song, ‘Naked Pictures (Of Your Mother)’ is a personal highlight, being a straight rock track with a singalong chorus and wonderfully nonsensical but still peculiarly profound verse lyrics. This is one song that really hammers home what Electric Six are all about, first and foremost; fun. It pervades every pitch-bent refrain and every lovingly silly chorus, yet never feels excessive or as though the band is trying too hard.
The two singles ‘Danger! High Voltage’ and ‘Gay Bar’ are as much fun as you remember from the almost nonstop airplay all those years ago, with the former still being a punchy and mischievous disco rock track, and featuring a saxophone solo. It’s a little repetitive, particularly towards the end, but it is always enjoyable and the video is still good for a chuckle. ‘Gay Bar’ is probably the better song of the two, melding together a diabolically catchy riff and a brilliantly simple but impressive solo that serves as the perfect accompaniment for the smutty lyrics. Elsewhere on the album, ‘I Invented The Night’ and ‘Synthesizer’ perform ballad duties, and both work well. The latter is probably the better song, being a simple slow disco track that has a well-orchestrated but subtle melody at its’ heart. Lyrics in both songs are consistent and well written, but ‘I Invented The Night’ uses faux-romantic imagery in an ironic way. Lines like, ‘Hey, little birdy, fly until your wings desert you. And when you come down, come down on me, ’cause you know I will never hurt you’ would usually work quite well in an Electric Six song, but unfortunately, the tone of the song they are featured in render the effect a little ambiguous. Are they being ironic or is this a twisted ballad as only Electric Six can perform it? ‘Nuclear War (On The Dancefloor)’ is a short and sweet metal track with the usually demented tone of Valentine’s voice increased to an over-the-top roar, as he declares the song’s title with admirable and fitting excitement. This is where Fire
shines; where they allow the Electric Six they have since adopted as their musical style run riot and create silly party songs that are hard to dislike and even harder to forget, if only for their sheer energy.
Unfortunately, there are a few occasions on Fire
where the album either tries too hard or not hard enough, resulting in a few lukewarm tracks, namely, ‘Electric Demons In Love’, ‘Vengeance And Fashion’ and ‘Getting Into The Jam’. They’re not especially bad compositions, but do feel somewhat throwaway, with forgettable riffs, typical lyrics and rather unspectacular songwriting in general. Wishing to finish on a high though, tracks ‘Improper Dancing’ and ‘I’m The Bomb’, which are both well-orchestrated and memorable. ‘I’m The Bomb’ especially is impressively broad, having the feel of a rock song but featuring multiple refrains that utilise quiet riffing and tuneful, relaxing ambience, all before Valentine declares, ‘Hey girl, when I’m ***ing you, it’s like nothing else matters. Let her reach down, between my legs, and ease the seat back.’ It’s a tad jarring but the patented brand of insanity Electric Six peddles in ensures that it is memorable for all the right reasons.
Having since watched the band come into their own musically, it’s interesting to look back on where they started. The attitude hasn’t changed in the slightest; the songs are still as cheeky as they ever were, and proud to be so. Fire
Marks an interesting starting point for the band, and although it is an effort more focused on rock music, it is interesting that the final result has more or less exactly the same effect as every subsequent album, and I mean that in the best possible way. There are a few low points on the album, but listeners will find that these lesser songs merge with the surrounding tracks well, and as a whole, the experience is a good one: striking, silly, and above all else, deliriously entertaining.