If Electric Six were to ever grow up, would they cease to be the Electric Six? A convincing case could be made with Kill, an album that, if I were to reach, would at best is a transition album for a band that’s been stuck in a rut since its breakthrough album. More likely, Kill is the first album by Electric Six to more or less abandon the band’s highly refined sense of humor, and the results are horrific.
If not for “Danger! High Voltage!,” a novelty hit that sounds less and less like a novelty over time (if only Das Racist could stick to one Taco Bell reference), Electric Six would simply be a humble midwestern band with a great schtick and small but consistent fan base. With one song, aided by a powerful friend in Jack White, the band became indie favorites. This being the crazy world of ’03, the members of Electric Six thought they could making something bigger of themselves, and they have struggled to repeat that kind of success.
Kill, Electric Six’s sixth album, is no less stupid than anything the band has released since their breakthrough debut, Fire. What Kill lacks, which all the previous albums had, is any sense of fun. It’s difficult to dance to, and the guitar riffs are more loud than they are musical.
If the Electric Six are sincerely going to mature, they’re going to have to do better than the cheap local references in “Escape from Ohio,” the half-assed allusions to low-rent posers (“Body Shot,” Rubbin’ Me The Wrong Way,”) new fast-food puns (“be my Kenny Rogers Roaster!”), and a rather sick, in a bad way, fame fantasy (“My Idea of Fun”).
Electric Six was always a very good band with a low ceiling. Six years after the band’s debut, it’s tried to fix a formula that wasn’t broken, and they’ve done it with remarkably self-aware laziness. Lyrics like “My sound is going down” (“One Sick Puppy”), “We see we’ve been so dumb” (Steal Your Bones), “My life is a joke nowhere near funny” (Waste of Time and Money) show that the band is acknowledging that its new album isn’t any good.
One of the Electric Six’s greatest attributes has been playing to its strengths. Kill proves that the band also knows its weaknesses, the level of complacency on display is rather painful to listen to. Rather than mature effectively, Electric Six has pretty much reached the end; at this point, the band is just cashing out.