Electric Six - “Rubber Rocket” (dir. Digitelio)
Girls like you ruin the future
Girls like you ruin my life
Girls like you make guys like me make love to a computer
Girls like you turn into witches
Girls like you turn into beasts
Girls like you find guys like me and eat our vital organs
Pick a subreddit, any subreddit, and you’ll find sentiments just as hyperbolically blame-shifting as these lyrics from “Rubber Rocket,” conjured up by Dick Valentine of Electric Six years before r/mensrights slouched toward Bethlehem to be born.
Valentine has a knack for this sort of precognition. Witness his eerie anticipation of the mindless patriotic glossolalia of the Sarah Palin phenomenon in the opening line of "Dance Pattern": “She says she loves these United States of America / and the flag for which it stands, of thee I sing.” He’s also mastered expressing the clueless misogyny and empty self-celebration of dude culture, empty because it’s wedded to rotten consequences and clueless because the dude has no idea how he got there from here; cf. the would-be romantic spoken-word breakdown of "I’m the Bomb": ”Hey girl, when I’m fuckin’ you, it’s like nothin’ else matters.” And he can transform ridiculous fun into either plain ridiculousness (the climactic lines of the ersatz frat-party anthem "I Buy the Drugs" encourage buyers to send him their requests in a self-addressed stamped envelope, at which point he will “fill your prescription with some degree of accuracy”) or ironic grandiosity (in "Jimmy Carter" he intones the phrase “Backstreet’s back, alright” like it’s the end of “The Hollow Men.”) Like a post-millennial Steely Dan or the musical equivalent of Paul Verhoeven’s Starship Troopers, Electric Six are lacerating satirists of a woo-hoo-fun culture using the artistic vocabulary of that culture, and are thus doomed to be misunderstood basically forever.
The band’s no-budget video for “Rubber Rocket,” which I discovered via a daisy chain of links that most likely started with this Fluxblog post and continued through the magnificent Tim and Eric-y video for "Randy’s Hot Tonight!" , is where it all clicked for me. The footage of Valentine and company in sunglasses-at-night, fur-coats-on-men chic, awkwardly and sweatily crashing a multitude of actual karaoke nights at various Detroit bars, reminded me of some of my own great IDGAF moments — stoned and drunk and wearing aviators and a bathrobe at 1am in the Chateau Marmont hotel bar and shit like that. There as here, there was an element of using the gravitational pull of your own obliviousness to force other people to be okay with how absurd you’re being — you can see that every time a patron of these bars decides they’re ready for their close-up and joins Dick and his red-jumper dancing girls. That’s an impressively specific, stupid, and revealing vibe to attempt to recreate with sight and sound. Moreover it’s the spirit that moves the entire cultural recrudescence of the Loudmouth Male, from Charlie Sheen to Aaron Sorkin.
No one since the turn of the century has done a better job of simultaneously capturing the glory and terror of being the loudest guy at the party than E6. They’re cool because they’re so good at the former you might not even notice the latter.