Electric Six - Zodiac
Incredibly Electric Six, the very same band who brought us such hard-hitting hits as ‘Gay Bar’ and ‘Danger! High Voltage’, are onto their seventh album. Even if you don’t appreciate their output, then you have to admire their work-rate with an album released practically every year since 2003’s Fire despite numerous band member changes. Zodiac sees the band continue their quest to cover practically every sub-genre of rock possible with the album veering wildly between synth rock to punk rock via stadium rock and many more in between. It all results in an album that is barely coherent but oddly listenable, albeit in the same way a car crash is horribly fascinating for any curious passers-by.
It’s not without its charms though and Electric Six do have an undeniable ability to craft catchy tracks that you know you shouldn’t like but can’t help yourself. They manage to do the same here with ‘Clusterfuck!’ and ‘It Ain’t Punk Rock’ being prime examples; the former with a chorus that is childishly simplistic but incredibly effective and the latter, with its tongue firmly in cheek, leading to the best/cheesiest lyrics on the album – “And if you're on fire, you're gonna need some water / And if you're underwater, you're gonna need some air / And if you're in the air, you're gonna need a place to land / And if you're on land, you can come and see my piece of shit band!”
However despite the presence of enough ridiculous moments to appeal to even the most casual Electric Six fan coming from either the lyrics – “I’m not a I-talian fella, but I like mozzarella” from ‘American Cheese’ – or the instruments – the not one, but two epic melancholic sax solos on ‘Doom And Gloom And Doom And Gloom’ – the whole album just never gels, not helped by some over-indulgence by the band. There’s a great two-minute track in ‘American Cheese’ but the choice to make the song four minutes and twenty seconds long, a common theme for Electric Six albums with two other tracks on this album also being the same length, is a flawed one.
Other tracks aren’t as lucky to even have a decent track hidden within them: ‘Tables And Chairs’ is just dull, even with the attempt at a soaring finale, and ‘Love Song For Myself’ is a pretty dreadful attempt at an 80s-esque synth dance floor filler which by the bizarre ending is just irritating. Proceedings aren’t helped by Valentine’s vocals which only ever have one setting that is more akin to shouting rather than singing and bear a striking resemblance to Jack Black. The limitations of the vocals mean that any attempt at variation within genres only really works at an instrument level and by the end of Zodiac, you’ll be closer to annoyance with the vocals than reverence.
Overall, Zodiac comes across as an album that the band compiled from their first batch of tracks they recorded instead of taking time to work out what works and doesn’t work well together. Their genre-hopping is admirable but twelve random tracks doesn’t make an album and you get the feeling that if Electric Six took time out from annual albums, the end result would be a stronger and, crucially, more coherent album that could rival Fire as the band’s best. As it is though, Zodiac is an intermittently enjoyable but ultimately messy album that won’t win the band any new fans - but won’t lose any either.