DEATH BY UNGA BUNGA
SO FAR SO GOOD SO COOL
Get this – a modern band from Europe that’s not metal! Jokes aside, Norwegian garage rock
band Death By Unga Bunga released their latest album So Far So Good So Cool this past April.
Being an active band since 2008, the gang have released 4 previous albums. The lineup has
stayed the same since inception, with Sebastian Ulstad Olsen on lead vocals and guitar, Preben S.
Andersen on keyboards, Stian S. Gulbrandsen on guitar, Even Rolland Pettersen on bass, and Ole
S. Nesset on drums. The lyricism of the album deals with your standard lost love/heartbreak
tone, but with the right tone of music, they can definitely be interpreted differently. I’m a huge
rock fan, so I couldn’t wait to dissect this band apart.
The album’s name could to be a reference to thrash metal legends Megadeth’s So Far, So
Good… So What? Personally I was surprised rock bands still exist especially in Norway seeing
how metal has taken the continent by storm. I love some good metal, but I was wondering
whatever happened to rock in general? Anyways, So Far So Good So Cool starts off with the
track “Haunt Me”, with a guitar tone that’s very reminiscent of The Strokes, The White Stripes,
and other garage rock revivalists in the early 2000s. This paired with the power pop structures
that are familiar to those who are fans of Cheap Trick, makes the song a great opener.
1) Haunt Me
4) Internet (Interlude)
5) So Cool
6) Into The Night
7) Turn My Brain Off
8) Space Face (Interlude)
10) I’m No Provider
11) Bye Bye
If you aren’t hooked by the first song, I don’t know what to tell you! Just from this song alone, you can
tell these guys were misplaced from time. “Soldier” is the second tune, talking being a soldier and pushing on through hardships, especially those of heartbreaks. Taking a deeper look, it can also be interpreted as pushing on and being a stalker. “Try to figure out what you're saying // You called me creepy on the phone // When I close my eyes I can feel you // So I'm with you even when I'm alone” are the lines off the second verse and taken out of context can seem very frightening.” The third track “Cynical” feels like the singer is dealing with false self-confidence because of other’s opinions. Maybe he’s too confident and being “cynical” or maybe it really is just a façade? Being the third track, it has become a slower tempo, and brought us to focus more on the lyrics if you haven’t been paying attention for the first two tunes. The only thing that bothers me about this track is the keyboard. It feels pretty tacky and reminds me of this power pop band All-Star Weekend that was active in the late 2000s. The song ends with a nice solo and repeating line “Maybe I’m cynical”, transitioning into “Internet”, a 30 second interlude of
chatter, space electronics, setting the scene as a future like Star Wars.
Moving into “So Cool”, the song is about admiring someone who does all these weird and horrible things. Just the first verse is creepy enough: “I didn';t know that you could be so cool // One time I saw you torturing animals after school //You had a big, big smile upon your face // You said if I ratted you out you'd leave me hanging from the flagpoles // With a rope around my waist”. I don’t know how I missed those words on my first listen. This is one of the first songs that I didn’t really singalong too, despite not knowing the words to the song. We hit “Into The Night” next, which is the band’s first single and music video I saw. It was here I first compared them to a mix between The Strokes, early Weezer, and Beach Boys. This is probably the only favorite of mine off this album. The lyrics dive into a guy giving another guy advice about what to do at a bar. We’ll talk about the music video later… “Turn My Brain Off” starts off with a “WOO!!” that can probably scare you if you have your volume high. This is a fairly strong song, with some well-thought out guitar licks and solos. If you just changed the vocals, this would have been a Blink-182 song! Having one of the best choruses out of the album, the simple word “Medicine”, is powerful in terms of being layered over the guitars. A single guitar note being held ends the song,
transitioning into the other interlude off this album “Space Face”. This time being 46 seconds,
we’re thrown back into the same aesthetics as “Internet”.
“Boys” is the ninth track, and discusses about literally enjoying beer with your fellow brethren. At this point, if the same atmosphere of the previous tracks didn’t start to hit you, it would be hitting you now. I feel they could have ended with a strong track here, but the album continues with “I’m No Provider”. I finally hear an acoustic guitar, because apparently this is supposed to be a mellow song. If it has an acoustic guitar, it must be mellow right? It’s a forgettable tune to be honest, but regardless, I appreciate
their efforts. To round out the album, “Bye Bye”, a fitting title for a fitting last track, this is where Weezer would have probably sued these guys. The opening riffs sound something straight out of Pinkerton, and it was interesting but mainly disappointing. Even considering I’m a huge fan of the Weezer album, I wanted something that was DBUB, not Weezer! The lyrics deal with Olsen telling someone to leave their life, someone who was toxic in their life it seems. Some nice lyrical points but again, the guitar licks are so very reminiscent to Weezer. I can’t help but laugh at this point. Ending with guitar feedback, the album consisted of 11 songs.
When I first heard of these guys, I was really intrigued and immediately was a fan. As of writing this review, I can’t really say the same. Regarding the music videos, specifically for “Into The Night” and “Soldier”, it felt as the band was trying to ride the humor of the internet, and become a viral sensation. The music by itself is really great and all, but paired with the video, it felt very stupid. I see if the guys are really into the humor of looking like idiots in the videos and making people laugh, then all power to them! I really like comedy in music, but it has to be well-done in order to be appreciated more, not just riding on the coattails of every Vine or meme out there.
This feels like your run-of-the-mill, power-pop/garage rock band, except they’re from Europe, which heavily disappoints me because I expected this kind of attitude from Americans (not to insult anyone here but let’s be honest). Let’s not even talk about how they look in the music videos. One guy reminds me of David Tennant, the other looks like a friend of mine, and the singer has a bowlcut hairstyle, like “WOAH what’s up?”.
Anyways, the band has worked really hard to get to where they are now, and even if I say all
these things, I’m still a fan and appreciative of all their musical endeavors. Death By Unga
Bunga are embodying fun and greatness which was the point of rock ‘n’ roll. These guys are
embracing it in a new light, giving us a nice throwback. I can see they enjoy what they do, and
they even produced this new album themselves! You can really see the production being well-
done, being able to hear every instrument clearly, whether focusing on one or on everything at
once. The guitar work was substantially above what I expected, and I am amazed at how hard
these guys have toured. I’m surprised I haven’t heard of them sooner through my own friends
who would have definitely been more interested in these guys. I give this album a 6.5/10, and I
expect more material from these gentlemen soon. Maybe another tour?
For More Info:
Sebastian Ulstad Olsen (Lead vocals, guitar)
Preben S. Andersen (Keyboards)
Stian S. Gulbrandsen (Guitar)
Even Rolland Pettersen (Bass guitar)
Ole S. Nesset (Drums)