[The Mail On Sunday, 2003]
DANGEROUSLY IN LOVE
ELECTRIC SIX come from Detroit, the epicentre of hard-riffing rock revivalism, and have built a reputation on their gleefully demented live shows. If six different tour buses carrying six different bands crashed into each other, and one bloodied survivor staggered from each. . . that would be fun, but not as much fun as watching Electric Six.
The singer resembles one of those sinister, predatory hipsters who gravitated from the straight world to the entertainment business in the late Sixties. The keyboard player came third in a Neil Tennant look-alike contest sixteen years ago, and hasn't changed a hair since. The drummer models chest medallions in his spare time. One guitarist has arrived direct from an engagement at a seedy lounge bar where the bassist was a patron. The other guitarist is on day release from Chris Rea's band, or may actually be Chris Rea.
Electric Six's sound is made up of three parts AC/DC to one part each KC & The Sunshine Band and Arthur Baker. Their single, Danger! High Voltage (“Fire in the disco! Fire in the disco!”), is a shoo-in for the year's best-of lists. They are thrilling, and they are funny - and like all genuinely funny bands (AC/DC, Cheap Trick, The Ramones), and unlike guitar-wielding comedy troupe The Darkness, they are funny because they are essentially serious. Their principal and noble aim is to rock everything south of your waistband into its constituent atoms.
If you missed their UK tour, then their album, Fire, is the next best thing. The manic catchiness of Danger! High Voltage (the Play That Funky Music of our era) may overshadow the other tracks. But amongst these screeching, dingbat romps lurk a fair few real corkers. Plus, how many albums can you disco, pogo, headbang and bump to, all at once? For someone like me, who's always danced that way, it's a godsend.
As the linchpin of Destiny's Child, Beyoncé Knowles has often presided over the perfect fusion of pop and R&B. Take Bootylicious, with its juddering backbeat and salacious admonishment: “I don't think you ready for this jelly.”
On her first solo album, Dangerously In Love, the now surnameless Beyoncé has decided that we ready for that jelly. And what a lot of jelly it is. Perhaps a tad too much jelly. Make no mistake, when Beyoncé is good, she is fantastic. She is gifted, both physically and musically, with what the Cavalier poet Robert Herrick so choicely described as “that brave vibration each way free.” But even the newly crowned and undisputed queen of the rump-shakers can't be expected to keep up this level of rhythmic fervour for 70 minutes.
At first, Dangerously In Love seems to be all about sex. And not the hygienic, tidy, shrink-wrapped sex flogged by the Kylies of this world, but grown-up, sweaty, down'n'dirty sex, like mother used to make - or would have done, had mother been in a Seventies soul band.
Opening with the raunchy, uproarious single, Crazy In Love, Beyoncé then samples Donna Summer's immortally filthy Love To Love You Baby, makes space for an obscene rap from Big Boi of the brilliant Outkast, and croons, “I'd rather be with you 'cause I love the way you scream my name,” all within the first five songs.
Thereafter, alas, the album sags like a cheap motel mattress. The R&B ballad has become a turgid, debased art form over the last two decades, and never more so than here. But on such upbeat numbers as Naughty Girl, Hip Hop Star and last year's fiendishly funky hit Work It Out, Beyoncé strikes paydirt. That's what CD remotes are for.
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