The ironic thing about the fashion of irony is that nothing ever stays ironic. Just look at the modern hipster world: the ironic mustache, the wildlife T-shirt, gigantic vintage sunglasses. We could go on for days.
Electric Six’s 2003 debut, Fire, was an explosion of ironic disco rock. Songs such as “Gay Bar,” “Dance Commando” and the Jack White-featured “Danger! High Voltage” were distinct party classics that united rockers and club kids around the world. Their songs mixed punk and dance with next-to-flawless rhythms and cheeky lyrics. Unfortunately for these five rockers from Detroit, lightning cannot strike twice. With their second attempt, Señor Smoke, it’s clear that songs of nuclear war, white heat and dance revolutions no longer hold the ironic charm they once did. We’ve been here before. If everyone at the club is sporting the same mustache and wildlife T-shirt, then it’s no longer ironic: It’s predictable.
The music here is dry, boring and almost completely free of any hooks. For a group that built its name by playing the same riff over and over while repeating some nonsensically amusing line, Señor Smoke comes off as a musical tug of war. Most of these tracks stumble around Dick Valentine’s wacky lyrics, and the limited karaoke-style production only cheapens the equation. Valentine’s lyrics are just as charming as ever, with lines about Reagan’s dreams of nuclear war (“Jimmy Carter”) or questioning our preparedness for big savings before rocking (“Bite Me”), but his singing is not enough to keep the electricity flowing.
Since Fire, Valentine has now found himself working with an entirely new group of musicians. Amidst these changes in lineup and record labels (to Metropolis from XL after Rushmore released Señor Smoke in the U.K. last year) things are clearly different for Electric Six. Unfortunately, Señor Smoke’s more-of-the-same sound only proves that everything eventually gets old and tired, especially irony.