Following in the long established tradition of studied and proficient Scandinavian rock bands, The Goners mix up several forms of rock on their debut album Good Mourning, that’s out now on RidingEasy Records. Taking in garage, surf, heavy, and psych, these Swedes deftly sidestep what could have been a chaotic mash-up, instead offering a surprisingly measured and refined take on a style of rock and roll that they’ve made all their own. And incredibly cool and controlled riot of riffs, solos and great songs.
The Goners’ style is kinda like a mix of The Hives, Dick Dale, and The Sonics with plenty of hooks and choruses, but also taking in moments of 60s psych and 70s heavy rock. There’s plenty of high energy guitar soloing, off the wall invention, and a backbone of heaviness that carries all the way through. Lyrically, Good Mourning is a bit of a downer, with what seems like a cynical defeatist take, something of a meditation on death and dying and the inevitability of all things passing. But as The Goners prove, that doesn’t mean we can’t party along the way.
You know what you’re in for from the opening track Are You Gone Yet, a slickly played, tight garage rocker all pounding rhythm and helter skelter riffing, with waves of surf style, an undercurrent of wah-wah, and a wide-stance centre-stage guitar solo. For The Goners, lead guitar is the star, as they show again with the next track, High, Low And Never In Between, an offering of punked-out 70s proto doom with a hefty hint of 60s psychedelia and a space-bound excursion briefly passing the 13th floor.
World Of Decay sounds like a demented version of The Kinks, with glam rock drumming and jaunty riffs but a strangely heartfelt melancholy to the vocals. It’s got real character, typical of that Scandinavian sound, due in part to the Swedish accent and off-kilter vocal delivery. I reckon the vocals will be the litmus test for most, they had to grow on me a little, but once you pair them up with the unique morbid but good time vibe, it all just fits.
After the unstoppable heavy guitar stomp of Evil (Is Not Enough), lick after lick, lead after lead, Good Ol’ Death is the first surprise in store. A kind of 50s-style rockabilly ballad, rimshot drum beat, smoky cool cat guitars weaving spider twang riffs, and sorrowful vocals. It might sound like The Goners are a bit of a kitsch pastiche, but this song is a good example of how they knowingly embrace recognisable sounds and borrow from established styles, but then pair these elements with genuine heart and soul and heavy rock energy.
[Are You Gone Yet is] a slickly played, tight garage rocker all pounding rhythm and helter skelter riffing, with waves of surf style, an undercurrent of wah-wah, and a wide-stance centre-stage guitar solo…
Not ones to leave us wallowing for long, The Sickening is a fired-up fuzzed-out blast of bad times rock and roll, over and done in a little over two minutes. Down And Out brings it briefly down again, at first sounding like the mournful dirge the title promises, before its back to more garage rocking with dreamy guitar chords and an intriguing trippy break including brass and woodwind.
There’s no shortage of bands taking vintage styles and laying on the fuzz or turning up the volume, and that’s no bad thing, but The Goners have taken a different approach. The production is incredibly well balanced and avoids boosting any single element beyond exactly where it should be to create a unique vibe. The resulting effect is plenty of space for everything in the mix and a sound that’s clean, stripped-back and live sounding.
There’s more weird twists to be found with You Better Run, switching from big rocking riffs to 50s sci-fi whooshing and wailing, but these quirks never stray too far from the garage. The Goners are mainly concerned with rocking, not getting lost in space or pummelling you into submission with crushing riffs. They’re all about momentum and playing the songs, as the following track The Little Blue shows, another rhythmic rocker with a bluesy vibe.
Final track Dead In The Saddle (Dead Moon) comes on like Chris Isaak playing guitar with The Cramps, a dark smouldering desert rockabilly prowl with hand claps. And no matter what style The Goners turn their hands to, whatever quirks they incorporate, they always stick to the songs, packed with riffs, licks, hooks, choruses and of course, high octane guitar solos.
The Goners show just how much you can do when you roll the gain back and focus on not just the songs, but a new way to say something we’ve heard already. Good Mourning is neither heard-it-all-before garage rock nor all-too-easy vintage revivalism. This is something different. A sound that’s unique and strange and calculated, and an album that suggests that maybe the best way to get through a bad time is to just have a good time anyway.
Scribed by: Josuph Price