With the release of its eighth studio album, Heartbeats and Brainwaves, Electric Six shows us its mastery of time, its appreciation of punctuality, and most importantly, its musical relevance.
Heartbeats and Brainwaves introduces us to a different sound than what we’ve come to expect from Electric Six, yet it’s exactly what we should have expected. Whereas Zodiac was gleefully deranged, Heartbeats and Brainwaves sits somewhere between seductive and downright weird (yes, weird even for Electric Six).
The record’s lead track, “Psychic Visions,” invites us in with its hypnotic and creepy layered synth sounds over a steady electronic beat. Dick Valentine’s opening vocal, “Truth hurts, yes it does,” is crooned in an octave much lower than he should be capable of, and his delivery of the lyrics is deliberate; none are belted out here, even when he briefly goes into falsetto. Backup vocals of “aahs” and “psychic visions” add to the song’s uneasy feel. And, as an opener, this immediately destroys our previous understanding of what an Electric Six song was while reassuring us that it is exactly what an Electric Six song is: we feel both dirtier and sexier for having heard it, and slightly confused. (Also, where did our keys go?)
Picking things up is “French Bacon,” another synth-heavy track that seems to betray that Tait Nucleus might have recently purchased a Korg Kaossilator Pro. That’s okay: it all fits it great and nothing seems out of place. With the rhythm section holding down the fort, here the keyboards have a lot of room to play, particularly with the scaling (and let’s face it, noodling) lead playfully keeping things interesting. Palm-muted guitar chugs accent the musical onslaught here. Valentine’s vocals are grittier, and although I know exactly what he’s saying, I have absolutely no idea what he’s talking about. Musical deconstruction aside, if “French Bacon” doesn’t make you feel like either dancing and/or fornicating, you have no heartbeats and/or brainwaves.
“Gridlock!” lets us know that while Electric Six is almost certainly fucking with us, they’re not messing around. If the driving riffs taking front stage didn’t already let us know off the top, Valentine does, repeatedly belting out “I ain’t playin’ no joker poker!” Two well placed drops in the song’s intensity let us rest temporarily, but the band’s not through with us yet. It’s just the third song! There are eleven more to go!
If songs could have sequels, “It Gets Hot” would definitely be the sequel to “Down at McDonnelzzz,” with its refrain of “Boom, baby! Burn, baby! Boom, baby! Burn, baby! Boom, burning fire!” evoking drunken memories of “My people need a place to go!” Sequels are known for amping up elements of the original, and “It Gets Hot” has some heavier hip-hop cred thanks to a guest appearance by Andy D throwing down his brand of rap, which fits in perfectly here.
Like previous Electric Six albums, Heartbeats and Brainwaves doesn’t stick to one particular sound for very long, yet the songs don’t clash with one another. While many of the tracks seem strange on an initial listen—some seemingly devoid of any hooks—repeated plays reveal more depth until a different kind of appreciation for the music emerges. It’s in this that the album’s sequencing makes more sense. This isn’t a collection of songs that sound alike as much as it’s an album that segues between moods; it will make you feel. “The Intergalactic Version” could have easily been the last track with its drawn-out ending, but it also provides the perfect opportunity for the tinny intro of “Interchangeable Knife” before the band jumps wholeheartedly into the song.
When listening to Heartbeats and Brainwaves for the first time, I was inexplicably moved to tears during the second chorus of the uplifting “Hello! I See You!” Funny enough, shortly after this chorus, Valentine croons about getting just desserts because the music hurts. This is the closest thing we might get to an Electric Six stadium rocker. It also serves as a good introduction to the album’s second half, which is even stranger than the first half. Here we’re treated to “Bleed for the Artist,” a song that melds electro synth sensibilities with the twangy guitar you might expect from a Spaghetti Western; the hilariously titled but heartfelt “We Use the Same Products;” and a song extolling the virtues of “Free Samples” while also poking fun at them.
Rounding out the album and finishing it nicely is the synth-heavy title track “Heartbeats and Brainwaves,” complete with zaps, decimated beats, a fake ending that’s nowhere near the end of the song, and horns that evoke memories of finally defeating really difficult 8-bit video games.
As far as new albums go, I can’t possibly ask for anything more from Electric Six. I always wonder where this band is going to go next, and they always surprise me. Heartbeats and Brainwaves takes me on a journey through my imagination, forcing me to tap my feet along to the songs while I do my best to sing along. This journey spans many moods and makes me ponder many questions. I’ll be thinking about the meanings of these songs forever, even though some likely don’t have any meaning at all. But above all this, the question I’ll continually be asking is why more people don’t fall in love with this band. Its time is now, and it’s always time for Electric Six.
Heartbeats and Brainwaves was released on October 11 from Metropolis Records. You can purchase it from Amazon and iTunes. If you aren’t checking the band’s website on a regular basis, you’re missing out on some excellent content.
Be sure to catch the band on their Hello, Destructor!!! Tour:
Oct 11: Tucson, AZ @ Plush
Oct 13: Dallas, TX @Prophet Bar
Oct 14: San Antonio, TX @The Ten Eleven
Oct 15: Austin, TX @Emo’s
Oct 16: Houston, TX @Fitzgerald’s Downstairs
Oct 17: New Orleans, LA @House of Blues
Oct 19: Jacksonville FL @Jack Rabbit’s
Oct 20: Orlando, FL @The Social
Oct 23: E. Atlanta, GA @The Earl
Oct 24: Carrboro, NC @Cat’s Cradle
Oct 26: Philadelphia, PA @Johnny Brenda’s
Oct 27: Cambridge, MA @Middle East
Oct 28: New York, NY @Bowery Ballroom
Oct 29: Baltimore, MD @Sonar
Oct 30: Washington, DC @Black Cat
Nov 01: Pittsburgh, PA @Brillo Box
Nov 02: Cleveland, OH @Grog Shop
Nov 03: Grand Rapids, MI @The Intersection
Nov 04: Chicago, IL @Double Door
Nov 05: Toledo, OH @Frankie’s
Nov 17: Moscow, Russia @Milk
Nov 19: Paris, FR @Bataclan
Nov 20: Eindhoven NL @Effenaar
Nov 21: Amsterdam NL @Melkweg
Nov 23: Inverness UK @Ironworks
Nov 24: Glasgow UK @ABC
Nov 25: Belfast UK @Spring & Airbreak
Nov 26: Dublin IE @Academy
Nov 28: Liverpool UK @Academy
Nov 29: Birmingham UK @Academy
Nov 30: York UK @Fibbers
Dec 01: Manchester UK @Academy
Dec 02: Newcastle UK @Academy
Dec 03: Sheffield UK @Academy
Dec 05: Cardiff UK @Glee Club
Dec 06: Brighton UK @Concorde 2
Dec 07: Bristol UK @Academy
Dec 08: London UK @Academy
Dec 09: Bournemouth UK @Academy
Dec 10: Oxford UK @Academy
Dec 23: Detroit MI @St. Andrews Hall
Dec 26: Sarnia ON @The Stubborn Mule
Dec 27: St.Catharines ON @L3 Nightclub
Dec 28: Hamilton ON @Casbah
Dec 29: Waterloo ON @Starlight
Dec 30: Toronto ON @Horseshoe Tavern
Dec 31: Ottawa ON @Maverick’s
Jan 01: London ON @Call The Office