Apparently, you can’t tell what a book is about just by looking at its cover. Or something like that. You know the saying. But how about an LP? It’s much easier, isn’t it? Let’s say you came across Black Elephant’s Cosmic Blues in a record store. What kind of music would you expect on an album with that title and a cover design playing with seventies trash, kitsch and a bit of horror, featuring the mirrored image of a woman placed in psychedelic swirls, with a skull in the centre of the composition? I think you’d probably get it right.
Black Elephant are a psychedelic fuzz rock band from Savona, Italy, and Cosmic Blues is their third full-length album. Their main source of inspiration is obviously seventies fuzz, but also guitar heavy music from the nineties. Think Jimi Hendrix making music with Chris Cornell’s Soundgarden.
How does that sound? Pretty good, actually. You will definitely be thinking of the seventies, of seventies shows, bands and movies. However, the nineties guitar riffs give the music a more down-to-earth character, they make the end product sound less drugged. The vocals à la Chris Cornell add to that.
Take for example the track Walking Dead. The guitar work at the beginning reminds me of the intro to the seventies crime show the Streets of San Francisco, but then the nineties take over and you’ve got a completely different atmosphere. Unusual as well. I don’t recall having heard that particular mixture anywhere else before (which of course doesn’t mean that it doesn’t exist).
Black Elephant are into fusing guitar heavy music from the seventies and the nineties, and if you like music from these two periods, you’ll like Black Elephant as well.
Is there something else to the band? Something in terms of statement or philosophy? Well, most of the time, the band and their music appear to be about having fun: trash, kitsch, a bit of horror, tripping, drugs. The only thing standing somewhat apart from all of that is the band name, because a “black elephant” is actually a thing. As explained in a New York Times article, it is a “cross between “a black swan” (an unlikely, unexpected event with enormous ramifications) and the “elephant in the room” (a problem that is visible to everyone, yet no one still wants to address it).” There are certainly a lot of those around these days.
Were you expecting a bit of social commentary hiding behind this album cover? Right. Me neither. Maybe it’s just a coincidence. In any case, not bad, Black Elephant. Not bad at all.