No lyrics, no vocals, not even any song names. The Good The Bad are back, clocking up their fiftieth released song and ploughing on much the same as ever. They’re still methodically naming their tracks in numerical order, and the album cover’s still adorned with naked ladies (though this time there’s also a leopard). The Danish trio are styling their current sound 'new school surf and flamenco' – but it’s more bluesy and rocky than that. With crunching Queens of the Stone Age style riffs alternating with lilting guitars straight out of Spaghetti Western soundtracks and the odd bit of wah-laden surf rock, From 034 To 050 is an album that glories in all the different sounds you can make with two electric guitars, a drum-kit and not much more.
With no vocals and many an atmospheric track (whether the slightly sinister ‘040’ or the warm, fuzzy surf pop of ‘041’), the album inevitably retains a soundtrack-like quality, with the music telling an unseen, unexplained story. Much like Danger Mouse and Daniele Luppi’s Rome, the predominant genre invoked is the Western soundtrack, but there is an underlying sense of threat that wouldn’t be out of place in a Tarantino flick, as well as more Beach Boy-esque moments which would slot into most teen rom-coms. All in all, if From 034 To 050’s cinematic vignettes are telling a story, it’s not one easily guessed.
Taking the anonymity even further, there are rarely any distinguishing features to allow you to differentiate between songs and, as such, picking highlights or favourite songs is pointless. Inevitably everything blurs together, and even if one song does particularly grab you, you’ll struggle to remember if it was ‘035’ or ‘037’ – it’s not quite as impossible as ¡Forward Russia!, but definitely harder than Three Trapped Tigers (maybe that’s just me, I seem to find lower numbers more anthropomorphic somehow). I imagine that the band themselves look at their set-list in panic at times, wondering if ‘047’ was the one with or without the overdrive.
Ultimately though, the lack of titles suits the tracks, which blend together beautifully, with one lick leading into another seamlessly and lending the record an enduring sense of a particularly smooth jam session. There’s a broad consistency of ambience and tempo throughout, and a very consistent sound. Though there’s some variation, it retains a restrained simplicity, rather like the self-set limitations of the White Stripes. At times head-bangable, at others pure sunny pop, it’s a straight-forward guitar album and there’s little doubt that it would be an extreme live experience.
All in all, it’s a lot of instrumental guitarring to take in. The most successful tracks are the warmer, Western jams; amongst them the lolloping, oozing slide guitar of ‘045’ and the lilting Mexican stand-off ‘048’. Elsewhere, the flamenco, finger-bendin’ goodness of ‘039’ and the warm, noodling surf guitar of ‘041’ also work very well.
The playing is exemplary, but the indistinguishable nature of the tracks eventually holds the album back. The band are clearly having a blast, but it doesn’t entirely translate to the listener. With the triple digit numbering, they’re obviously not planning on stopping any time soon, and if you’ve liked their past efforts, it’s pretty certain you’ll like what’s to come; little has changed. There’s not much it can be accurately compared with and it’s indisputable that they’ve chosen their guns and stuck to them- the only question is whether they wouldn’t be better served writing actual soundtracks.
5Kat Rolle's Score