Review Summary: A step in the right direction
If a band opts for the fade out route, there's usually a point at which you tell the magic is gone and all you're staring at is a hollow husk. In the case of Electric Six, I got that feeling when I first checked out "Arrive Alive", a preview track for their last album. It sounded like a literal shelved demo from 2007, production quality, melodic patterns and everything. Then How Dare You dropped and that dud turned out to be one of the record's highlights. Years of various corner cutting, overcommitment and general staying power decay culminated in the band turning into an empty shell of itself. I examined my past decade of Electric Six listening on last.fm and noticed that the last album of theirs that entered proper rotation was Heartbeats & Brainwaves. Everything from Mustang onwards would fly in one ear upon release, get some plays, and fly out the other within half a year. How Dare You was just a culmination of this gradual process, and hasn't been spun again since the day I laid my hands on it.
Bride of the Devil feels like a conscious reevaluation of all the aspects of being a working band Electric Six started neglecting over the years. The cover art is actual cover art, rather than some borderline placeholder visual, and the band goes the extra mile and offers a matching image set for the singles. The production job is the best since The Colonel left the fold, which may be related to bringing him back on board for the entirety of the mixing/mastering process. And, crucially, the writing is largely on point. The sights are set for a similar sort of "back to roots" approach that How Dare You miserably failed at, but is executed far tighter. While the overall level may be a notch lower than what the band represented during its golden era, it's still easily their greatest record in years. The highs are fantastic, with the absolute star being "Safety Girl". A calm, funk-infused verse trades off with a monstrous chorus carried by the doubled roar of guitar power chords and complementary synth pad. Ladies and germs, Electric Six at their finest.
The main problem of the record is conceptual. Electric Six, a somewhat experimental collective that has been in a perpetual state of mild musical flux since Switzerland, has now stayed pretty close to their original sound for two records running. While the band dabbles a bit in grunge ("Daddy's Boy", "Full Moon Over the Internet"), hair metal ("The Opener") and classic rock ("You're Toast") on the stronger tracks in the interest of keeping things from going stale, I Shall Exterminate Everything Around Me That Restricts Me From Being The Master was already more adventurous than this batch of material. It doesn't help that the worst stuff ("Hades Ladies", "The Worm in the Wood") stems from well-treaded grounds. For the time being, I don't mind - over 50% of the record has successfully wormed its way into my brain, and my last.fm listen count has the album outperforming everything released after Heartbeats & Brainwaves for retention. While this may only compare to the Flashy hiccup in terms of quality of Electric Six's unlikely 2006-2011 golden age, it is a step in the right direction. I hope that the band learned the value of sweating the small stuff with this record and am once again awaiting their future output with a dash of optimism.