Review: ‘The D-4; Electric Six’

Revolution -- even the sonic kind -- can make for strange bedfellows, as demonstrated by this unlikely teaming of bands, one made up of unreconstructed believers in the grand rock myth, the other comprising deconstructionists that carry the Devo torch into the post-postmodern age.

Revolution — even the sonic kind — can make for strange bedfellows, as demonstrated by this unlikely teaming of bands, one made up of unreconstructed believers in the grand rock myth, the other comprising deconstructionists that carry the Devo torch into the post-postmodern age.

New Zealand-bred headliners the D4 descend pretty directly from garage rock’s archetypes, which they readily attest to by choice of covers — the Litter’s seminally snotty “Action Woman” and the Heartbreakers’ leering “Pirate Love” — and flailing onstage demeanor.

To be fair, a good bit of the flailing — at least that of guitarist Dion Palmer — took place offstage as well: When he wasn’t letting loose larynx-endangering backing screams, Palmer was likely to be found in mid-audience, chopping out tightly wound Johnny Thunders-styled riffs, which are showcased to good effect on the band’s Hollywood debut, “Twenty.”

What the quartet lacked in tonal variety — a fair amount, to be blunt — they made up for in volume and enthusiasm, particularly on the part of formidably mutton-chopped front man Jimmy Christmas, a bulldog of a singer who successfully splits the difference between Bon Scott’s gargle and Jack White’s yelp.

Detroit’s Electric Six, on the other hand, could be faulted only for trying to cram too much information into every moment. Visually incongruous and hyperactively genre blurring, the sextet forged an unlikely fusion of old-school disco and metallic riffs — held together by front man Dick Valentine, a Jack Black lookalike with a firm grasp on vintage arena-rock bluster.

While bereft of special effects as such, band played the theatrics card early and often, with Valentine and synthesizer player Tait Nucleus mugging up a storm during signature tunes “Danger High Voltage!” (with its memorable “fire in the disco/fire in the Taco Bell” chorus) and “Gay Bar” (a Link Wray-tinged ditty about impressing prospective girlfriends by taking them to the titular hangout).

The Six likewise punctuated their shorter opening set with a pair of telling covers — a fairly straightforward take on Roxy Music’s “Street Life” and a knowingly scenery-chewing storm through Queen’s “Radio Ga Ga.” Midway between those two, perplexed looks began to dissipate in the trenches: By perf’s end, decidedly nonironic fist-pumping was the order of the day.

The D-4; Electric Six

Bowery Ballroom; 500 capacity; $15

Production

Presented by Clear Channel Entertainment. Reviewed April 7, 2003.

Cast

(D-4): Jimmy Christmas, Dion Palmer, Vaughan Williams, Beaver.
(ES): Dick Valentine, Surge Joebot, Rock 'n' Roll Indian, Disco, Tait Nucleus, M.
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