by Jonathan Marty (@gradepending_)
The first few seconds of the The Cosmo Cleaners sound like you’ve opened the door to some demented factory, interrupting dozens of workers as they furiously toil away on a chaotic assembly line. Wooden rulers smack against graph paper, gizmos and gadgets screw nuts and bolts into place, managers run around shouting down orders as their steel-toed boots rattle against stone floors.
This track, titled “Flashback Arrestor,” serves as an excellent primer for the musical direction taken by Minneapolis punk outfit the Uranium Club on this follow-up their 2016 breakthrough All of Them Naturals. With their new offering The Cosmo Cleaners, the Club take a more surgical approach to their trademark antsiness, tying themselves into tighter and more intricate knots than ever before.
“Flashback Arrestor” itself is at times so busy that your ears don’t know where to look. Lead single “Man is the Loneliest Animal” builds tension through a haunting, delicate monologue before escalating into a frantic, stuttering climax. Early highlight “Grease Monkey” features a symphony of honks and car alarms, all while the band tells the hilarious and tragic story of a man whose sexual relationship with his car causes him to gradually lose interest in his wife (“I found heaven and fifty cents between those black leather seats!”) Here, the Uranium Club’s outlook on modernity retains its snide but witty eye -- injecting a uniquely dark sense of humor into otherwise energetic songs about the dizzying pace of modern life, and the increasingly uncomfortable relationship between human beings and technology.
The Cosmo Cleaners also sees the band refining the sharp, piercing sound of their previous records. Here, the group creates a compelling musical landscape solely out of sharp edges and punchy hits -- smooth sonic textures are truly few and far between. “Geodesic Son” is a particularly mazy track, with the band quickly turning corners as they build tension by interweaving their frantic guitars before switching to steadier grooves, all without breaking a sweat. As always, the band’s airtight rhythm section enables an intense and thrilling listening experience, making four musicians sound like a sophisticated and well-oiled machine.
The album concludes with “Interview With the Cosmo Cleaners” -- a track whose 10-minute length and largely sparse sonic arrangement make it a unique and successful experiment in the band’s discography. Beginning with a slow-burn musical intro, the track features spoken-word monologues from different characters as they commute to work in a city where “the buildings stand like giant gravestones, erected to themselves.” As the figures uncomfortably move through a landscape of “human liquids” and tall staircases, the song eventually gives way to a satisfying, yet relatively restrained Wire-esque jam. Whereas a younger Uranium Club probably would have gone out with a bang of Devo-indebted Rock n’ Roll, this wiser, more mature version of the band is content to leave the listener with a subtler, yet equally satisfying finale.
This last track encapsulates The Cosmo Cleaners, providing a portrait of a great band refining their sound, subduing some of their restlessness, taking some risks, and directing a laserlike focus on smaller musical details. I for one, am all for it. Long live the Uranium Club!