Cosmo Jones Beat Machine - Skeleton Elevator [Svart Records - 2021]
Skeleton Elevator is the 6th full-length album from Finnish blues-rock outfit Cosmo Jones Beat Machine. The project pairs straightforward funky blues guitar with raspy, gritty vocals, soaked in oil. This absurd, croaking voice reminds of the chant-like vocals of Can.
The band’s online biography compares them to Captain Beefheart, and while the singer's voice may rasp similarly, this group is nowhere near the novelty and outsider oddness of Beefheart. Every guitar riff on this album is a beginner level pentatonic pattern in 4/4, meaning they have none of the avant-garde technicality of Beefheart, and the group seems to take their 'blues' classification far too literally, never deviating from the expected chords and melodies.
The group's best quality is their rhythm section, their continuous, driving, swinging groove. A band like this could certainly inspire an audience to movement. That said, I don't have as high an opinion of their songwriting or creative vision. Blues, as one of the most flooded genres of the last 50 years, is a tough one to revitalize, and I'm hard-pressed to find anything this group has over their obvious influences. ZZ Top executed the same sound with a lot more punch and swagger 45 years ago.
The singer's voice doesn't have the charisma or unique character of fellow raspers like Beefheart, Tom Waits or newer Mike Patton (Tomahawk's Western-tinged post-punk comes to mind several times on this album). The performance is a bit too reserved to really stand out; an odd, heavily stylized voice is a bold choice, yet what we have here is still lacking in boldness. Rather than enunciating wildly and leaning into the 'crazy' character, he seems to grunt each word in the same exact tone, without adding individual attitudes or expression to the phrases. The same muffling fuzz effect is applied to every lyric on the album. This leads to a monotonous sound that is easy to tune out. The lyrics are mumbled, and the lower octave croaking style stifles any melodic content the voice could have had.
The guitar tone and production, in general, are ear-pleasing and warm, sounding organic and live without losing any clarity.
This is a band of competent musicians with very solid rhythmic interplay, and I can see them being a great live band. However, they have a long way to go if they're going to write anything memorable, and I would suggest enlisting a singer who could add a little more melody and variety and some immediate deviation from their very narrow pentatonic formula.Josh Landry