Note: The following was written around the beginning of this year when I was trying to finish How the Whole-Hearted Live. When I’m alone in the flat, I often write as a substitute for human contact. It was never intended for your eyes, but I have half an hour before I’m officially late with my bi-weekly update. Please forgive anything you disagree with: these are only my thoughts running.
So I’m sitting, psyching myself up to draw another Facebook cover, and I’m listening to Electric Six for inspiration. I wanted to do a picture of Dick Valentine, because there was a very long period of my life where I listened to Electric Six at least once a week. I’m not going to argue their case, but they were important to me, as much for people’s reactions as anything else. I mean, I loved the music, found them hilarious etc. but what I found interesting was how people reacted to my public love for a novelty band.
I’d stumbled across what seemed, to my mind, to be a suitably snazzy picture to keep my cred intact, and decided to get really into it and put a CD on. There, crouching between Extreme and the soundtrack from Dreamgirls. Now, which to pick? How does one choose between five albums of sex-obsessed disco metal?
Damn. The fourth disc isn’t in its case. That was a good one. It had ‘Dance Pattern’ on it. Don’t know where it went. It was expensive. Like, £16.
They know they’re an act, and as such are afforded the freedom to be as stupid as they feel like being. If you’re a genre-breaking weirdo, that means you’re a savant. If you’re peddling the ironic equivalent of 80s power metal vs disco punk, you will get away with it for exactly one album.
Fine, I’ll admit it – I have a soft spot for the unabashedly dumb song. Musicians do it all the time. They love coming up with silly, fun-as-hell songs that they’ll never let anyone hear seriously, but may trot out while drunk in the pathetic hopes of having someone mention that they like it (“I love playing this song and I think people would really dig it if they could get over themselves and not worry so much about being cool” being my most common justification). Electric Six just had the balls to take that to the stage and for a little while were a breath of fresh air for pop critics. Critics who spend their time trying to justify why it’s okay for artists to take their sense of cool so seriously.
My friend John Habashi once told me he’d heard Dick Valentine was really depressed. That blew my mind. I have no idea if it was true, but it colours every listen to this day. There’s something undeniably, gruesomely fascinating about hearing a guy in his mid-30s still pulling the same act while each album attracts less and less attention. I can’t help but imagine him slowly getting more tired and exhausted while having to pretend he’s still young and sarcastic. This is almost certainly a fabrication, but maybe that’s why I continued to enjoy them long, long after everyone had stopped caring. Either that or my capacity for childish humour has incalculable depths.
Growing up is how well you deal with the realisation that you can’t get by on how cute you are any more. I don’t feel young and cute any more. At all. But neither do I believe that I don’t have anything to offer as what comes after.