YOU HAVE EVERY right to wonder whether Detroit's Electric Six are kidding or not on their debut album, Fire (XL). Tunes about gay bars, white


Fire Men

Electric Six get down.

YOU HAVE EVERY right to wonder whether Detroit's Electric Six are kidding or not on their debut album, Fire (XL). Tunes about gay bars, white girlfriends, Taco Bell, the gates of hell, nuclear war, and "Naked Pictures (Of Your Mother)," would seem to be begging for the novelty-rock slush pile. Add to that topic list a sound whose disco-rock is less like the fashionably angsty post-punk-derived sound of the Rapture or Radio 4 than the chunky late-'70s AOR that once dominated mid-America. Then take a deep breath and say it loud, indie-cred purists: These guys sound like early Foreigner. And that's a good thing.

Having grown up in suburban Minneapolis during the '80s, I honestly don't remember Midwestern beer rock being anywhere near this much fun. Part of that has to do with the sheer tempo at which the Electric Six take everything: Even a Fire track like the comparatively moderate-tempo "Getting Into the Jam" whisks along breathlessly; it's certainly faster than, say, Foreigner's "Urgent" ever was. The band's wonderfully named Rock-N-Roll Indian's guitar riffs combust on contact: The seismic "Gay Bar" isn't just ridiculous because of its lyrics ("Let's start a nuclear war/At the gay bar!"), but because the guitar sounds like the golden mean of every surf-stomp song ever recorded. Something similar applies to the repeating R&B phrase that powers "Danger! High Voltage" (which features an uncredited co-lead vocal by the White Stripes' Jack White)imagine Keith Richards covering a Chic tune.

Lead singer Dick Valentine manages the neat trick of sounding modest while simultaneously being a complete ham. Listen to the way he roars "Stop! [band pauses] Continue!" on "Improper Dancing." Valentine has an almost comically robust voice that has frequently, and correctly, been compared to Tom Jones'. To hear either one swoop into a guttural roar is to envision them wiping the sweat off their foreheads and throwing the handkerchief into the crowd. (Having seen the Electric Six perform earlier this summer to a packed house at Minneapolis' tiny 7th Street Entry, I was struck by how little Valentine actually moved; then again, the stage was so small that almost none of the band members could move.) But he doesn't sound pompoushe sounds generous. It's the difference between a guy who invites guests over in order to show off his house and a guy who throws a party because he wants his friends to have a good time. So he can put over a lyric like "I was born a dancer in your disco of fire" (on "She's White") or title a ballad "I Invented the Night." He radiates the fun of the concept.

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