You’d be forgiven for thinking the Finns are a dour lot based solely on their contribution to underground music, with significant contributions to the hardcore punk, death/doom/black metal, harsh noise and dark psychedelic scenes over the last four decades or so. Of course, that’s a sweeping generalisation, and if you wanted a prime example that disproves the rule, Cosmo Jones Beat Machine are the very thing.
Coming on like a cross between Dr. Feelgood and Dr. Teeth’s Electric Mayhem, this long running outfit peddle a style they call ‘Tundra Boogie’, and I’d be hard pressed to find you a better summation. Elements of Southern swing, smoking hot blues, and dare I say a hint of rockabilly, it’s a larger than life homunculus of rootsy rock ‘n’ roll that seems wildly at odds with any idea of having originated in a country with a subarctic climate.
Opening with a song that, to all intents and purposes, sounds like George Thorogood covering The Bee Gees’ You Should Be Dancing is certainly one way to grab the attention, naming a song Dr Butt’s Dispensary is another. Mr. Jones and co clearly carry their tongues firmly in their cheeks for the duration of this their sixth album, but they pull it off and just come across as a band with a sense of mischief rather than some sort of overly wacky novelty act. This is essentially good time roots rock ‘n’ roll, and you don’t come to the dancefloor to be lectured on the woes of the world, do you? You come to let loose, and Skeleton Elevator exists to facilitate that.
Elements of Southern swing, smoking hot blues, and dare I say a hint of rockabilly, it’s a larger than life homunculus of rootsy rock ‘n’ roll…
Lead single Mad Trumpeter is a case in point, a percussion heavy hip shaker, almost like a Scandinavian cousin of prime Gallon Drunk that seems almost exclusively designed to be played to a drunken high spirited crowd, in a small tent at a Summer festival somewhere in Europe. Speaking of percussion, there’s probably more shakers, cowbells and the like on this one album than the last five years of albums I’ve heard combined. The likes of Popeye Perry or Magnetic Pole Dispensary hint at that aforementioned rockabilly side, the latter having an almost skiffle feel.
It often feels like Cosmo Jones Beat Machine have taken the entirety of recorded rock ‘n’ roll music between about 1955 and 1965 and somehow found a way to compress all it into one album. It’s almost cartoonish on the surface with the cod Waits–ian vocal rasps, but if you pick apart the elements there’s actually a lot more going on – that constant wave of percussion, the way they can sound like three or four different stages in the evolution of popular music from that period all at once, the marriage of backroom dirt and ballroom bounce, it’s an approach that borders the silly and the surreal. They’re smart cookies these Beat Machinists, but they hide it well.
The old adage of ‘not for everyone’ is certainly true here – some will love it, some will loathe it I suspect. But it’s impossible to be indifferent. A perfect summer booze ‘n’ barbeque album, or the soundtrack to a circus run by 50s greasers perhaps, it’s nothing if not fun.
Scribed by: Jamie Grimes