The prolific Electric Six bring a better, rounded rock to their latest record, Flashy. The band’s fifth album is their fourth in four years – and comes less than a year after their last, I Shall Exterminate Everything Around Me That Restricts Me From Being The Master (QRO review). In sound, the two releases are fairly similar, with Electric Six keeping up that fun, funny party-rock that they’ve been doing through all five records. But in other ways, the two are polar opposites: Exterminate was a brimming-at-the-seams, hit-or-miss collection of sixteen tracks, while Flashy is more even, and at ‘only’ thirteen. It doesn’t ever quite hit the highest heights of the band’s career, but it delivers strong number after strong number.
One place Flashy is a little out of balance is a-side vs. b-side: the first half is clearly the stronger of the two. Of course, they did start with “Gay Bar, Part Two” – finally making good on their joke to make a sequel to their first (and still biggest) hit single, the band brings the ayatollah of rocknrollah to this grand spoof on sequels (with particularly strong horns). However, “Part Two” is topped by the following singles “Formula 409” and “We Were Witchy Witchy White Women”; the club-rock anthem and driving party-rock, respectively, are two things that Electric Six does so well. The rest of the first half keep things rockin’ & rollin’: “Dirty Ball” is some fun disco-pop party-rock, while “Lovers Beware” plays like a little more serious “Gay Bar, Part Two” (if anything singer Dick Valentine (QRO interview) says can be considered at all serious…), and “Your Heat Is Rising” slows things up a bit with a sleazy-strum sway.
While the second side of Flashy doesn’t shine quite as bright as the first, there’s still some bling in there. “Face Cuts” interestingly mixes high and low vocals, with a tapping slow beat. Electric Six goes, well, electronic on the disco-dance “Flashy Man”, without losing their spirit. And the penultimate “Transatlantic Flight” plays grand like “Part Two” and “Lovers”. However, the band’s party-stomp-rock gets a little simplistic by the time “Heavy Woman” comes by, and the AC/DC-like guitar-attack of “Graphic Designer” isn’t made appealing enough by slightly weak pun lyrics. The latter half of Flashy also shows Electric Six at their most and least like themselves: “Watching Evil Empires Fall Apart” sounds a whole lot like Exterminate’s “Dance Pattern”, with practically the same beat; meanwhile, finisher “Making Progress” goes intro indietronic terrain, Valentine’s humor drenched in reverb.
In some ways, those two sum up Electric Six & Flashy: while “Evil Empires” isn’t as good as the great “Dance Pattern”, it’s still strong, but “Making Progress” feels like the band is going in the direction no fan wants them to (reminiscent of the regrettable electronic phase of punk rock icon Bob Mould – QRO live review). However, “Progress” is an exception, and Flashy, as a whole, is stronger than “Evil Empires”, thanks to its first half. While the quick turnaround, record-to-record, reduces the variety from Electric Six, when they do what they do so well, it’s good to see them not changing up but filling out.