By: Dylan Schink
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Released on October 14, 2014 via Metropolis Records
I think a lot of people shove Electric Six into the “comedy rock” category, most people think their career starts at Danger! High Voltage and ends at Gay Bar. This isn’t entirely unfair, comedy is a big part of their music, but I think it only tells a part of the story. While most of their songs are about absolutely nothing, they’re a good rock band made up of legitimately talented musicians writing legitimately catchy music that I, at least, really enjoy. Since 2003, the ludicrously prolific Electric Six have released ten studio albums, some great and some lacklustre; Human Zoo falls firmly in the second category.
I was excited for Human Zoo, as I always am for an Electric Six album, but after my first listen I remained fairly unmoved. The songs all consist of the setup for a joke but never seem to progress past that. Karate Lips, musically, is a good Electric Six song, showing off the style of disco-dance-rock they do so well, but lyrically the ideas just don’t develop. It just gets gets worse with It’s Horseshit!. I can’t actually tell you what this song is going for or why they wrote it. Musically it’s disjointed and confused, lyrically it’s just a collection of stanzas from theoretically better songs that don’t seem to add up to anything but a collection of words that do the bare minimum to form sentences. This story of mediocrity is the most notable thread in the album. Musically it’s consistently decent, a couple of songs, Satanic Wheels in particular, even become quite good, but every stanza feels like it was pulled out of a hat and inserted into the song without regard for whether or not they make any sense. Not that Electric Six need to make sense, but they’ve always managed to have a sort of dreamy comedic dadaist-sense that’ve held songs together. Gun Rights is firmly not funny and absolutely annoying. I’ve Seen Rio in Flames has so much potential but is let down by terrible synth strings.
Human Zoo feels like an album that was put out just to have something out in 2014. Every song feels like a work in progress and there’s no coherency to justify this weird collection. However, while Human Zoo is a disappointment, it’s not enough to make me give up on Electric Six. Heartbeats and Brainwaves was a far worse album but it gave way to Mustang, which is one of their better albums, so we just have to hope that next year’s album (provided they keep up their relentless recording schedule) shows more coherency than this.