Given the unwieldy title "I Shall Exterminate Everything Around Me That
Restricts Me From Being the Master" and the knowledge that it's taken from a
1921 drawing by German Dadaist George Grosz that he said depicted "a
grotesque portrayal of a gloating capitalist with a porcine nozzle and cigar
smoldering," you might expect the fourth album from Detroit rockers Electric
Six was to be the epitome of pretentious heaviosity.
we went into the studio to make this album, we knew we wanted to make a
longer record in terms of the number of songs -- we wound up with 16, but I
think we recorded 18 -- but other than that, our only goal was that we knew
that we wanted it to be a tad more ridiculous than the last record [last
year's 'Switzerland']," says singer and bandleader Dick Valentine (or Tyler
Spencer to his mom).
"We felt that was a bit too grown-up, a bit too subdued and a bit too
'good.' So we wanted to refocus our energy on being ridiculous."
To that end, "I Shall Exterminate ..." explodes with driving, seductive
and supremely silly ditties such as "Sexy Trash" ("Show me your sexy
trash / But don't go making moves that agitate my rash / I'm an American
man!"), "I Don't Like You" ("Someone told me you were cool / But the
more I think about it / That someone must have been you") and "Lenny
Kravitz," a hysterically funny song that's essentially about ... well, how
much the retro-rocker and poseurs like him stink.
"I was very lucky to live in Detroit when I did; I was there for about 10
years," explains Valentine, who now lives in Brooklyn. "There are a lot of
negative points to Detroit, but one of the positive things is that a lot of
the people there really mean it, and you don't run into people like Lenny
Kravitz. The other great thing was that there weren't any granola-hippie
bands or jam bands. You'd go out of town, to Boston or someplace, and you'd
see all these Phish or Grateful Dead wannabes. We didn't have any of that in
Detroit, and that was a good thing."
No one will ever mistake the members of Electric Six for hippies. The
group -- which currently is completed by the pseudonymous Johnny Na$hinal
and The Colonel on guitars, Smorgasbord! on bass, Tait Nucleus? on keyboards
and Percussion World on drums -- formed in 1996 out of the ashes of a band
called the Wildbunch, part of the same fertile garage-rock scene that
spawned the White Stripes. Regrouping as Electric Six, they upped the
danceability and the absurdity and first won a wide audience in Britain
thanks to the hit single "Danger! High Voltage" from their 2003 debut,
Several lineup changes followed, and the group has yet to score an
equivalent hit in the United States. But its audience has been growing
steadily nonetheless, thanks to notoriously out of control live shows and
"I think we're down to about 200 shows a year now; we've managed to take
an extra 50 days off for ourselves," Valentine jokes.
In a rock scene that continues to be dominated by bands that take
themselves way too seriously, Electric Six stands out for holding nothing
sacred, least of all itself.
"It doesn't matter if critics don't like us or don't really recognize us
in the big picture; as long as people are buying T-shirts and buying
records, that'll keep us going," Valentine says. "I don't want to name
names, but there are bands we've been on tour with -- bands everyone knows
-- and their guest lists are really long and filled with journalists who
love them and all that, but they're opening for us. And we'll have nobody on
our guest list, or nobody cool who wants to come and hang out with us!
"In fact, it's shaping up ... I'll never say according to plan, because
we've never been contrived about what we do, we just do it. But we're at the
point I've always hoped to reach, sort of like a Guided by Voices or the
Fall, with a group of guys in their 30s who put out an album a year and tour
relentlessly and build up a following in that way. It bodes well for our
longevity, as opposed to always thinking about having a radio hit. ...
"It's like being an NFL punter," the singer concludes. "You don't get the
limelight that the quarterback does, but you get to travel, you get a nice
salary and every now and then, you're on television."