Electric Six stay fun and funky on their latest release, I Shall Exterminate Everything Around Me That Restricts Me From Being The Master. The Detroit rock-techno-funk establishment hasn’t ventured that far a-field on their fourth LP (and third in three years), with singer/songwriter Dick Valentine’s tongue remaining firmly in cheek. And while on a few of the album’s sixteen tracks, the humor fails to overcome simplistic numbers, on others, the band reaches as high as they ever have.
The excessively long title, I Shall Exterminate Everything Around Me That Restricts Me From Being The Master, comes from a drawing by German artist George Grosz that shows the excesses of Weimar Berlin, and I Shall certainly wades in excess: the sixteen songs are more than many bands will give you on two releases. Throwing everything in there means that sometimes Electric Six mess up, sometimes they hit it all perfectly, and there are bound to be disagreements on where and when either occur.
Opener “It’s Showtime!” serves well with its silly gothic funk, but does employ too much stopping and starting. But out of it, Electric Six deliver two of their best tracks of funk, but of differing styles: “Dance Pattern” is more of a driving funk, a fun, aggressive hip-shaker, while the straight-up funk-rock of “Down At Mcdonnellzzzzz” is almost an anthem in its absurd darkness and vaudeville piano. One of the truths of I Shall and Electric Six is that they can deliver in all sorts of directions. Other top songs include the dirty Detroit soul of “Riding On the White Train”, the epic-but-rollicking “When I Get To the Green Building”, the ultra-catchy “Randy’s Hot Tonight!”, the ‘big’ & danceable with Casio tones “Kukuxumushu”, and the lewd, offensive, and totally right “Lenny Kravitz”. Back-to-back-to-back in the middle of the record, “Green Building”, “Randy”, and “Kukuxumushu” form as strong a core as anything.
However, there are also misses. On the pseudo-industrial “Broken Machine” and the 80’s guitar-rock “I Don’t Like You”, Valentine’s outsized, comedic persona isn’t enough to cover up the pieces’ relative dullness. Meanwhile, Valentine’s commentary on “Fabulous People” is trite, while follower “Sexy Trash” is just all over the place freak-rock. Those two fall second- and third-to-last, while finisher “Dirty Looks” is hindered like opener “Showtime”: the slow, smooth jazz is excellent, but the über-rock portions mixed in aren’t (like the stops and starts in “Showtime”).
In some ways, Electric Six peaked too early, thanks to their amazing debut singles “Danger! High Voltage” and “Gay Bar” (from 2003’s Fire). But they kept on rocking, through Señor Smoke and last year’s Switzerland. I Shall Exterminate Everything Around Me That Restricts Me From Being The Master plays like an interesting mix of all three, and, at its peaks, is a fine as anything the band has ever done.