Welcome to the Infant Freebase filled me with the eerie feeling that the Lizard King isn't dead; his soul has been summoned from its
resting place in a Paris cemetery to be reincarnated in the body of
Ebbot Lundberg, TSOOL's lead singer. "Mantra Slider" sounds so much like Jim Morrison is singing that at first that I got goosebumps. The slithering sitar and trembling tambourines transport the listener straight back to the middle of some patchouli-stinking '60s pad -- and that's just the opening song.
This is another reissued album from the Swedish group that apparently swallowed whole some of the best of the hard rocking bands of the sixties and seventies: the Doors, the Kinks, the Stooges and the Who. You certainly couldn't compare them to any group formed in the last twenty years. The guitars and bass whine and howl like damned souls in the Ninth Circle. Ebbot Lundberg's cigarette-raw tenor is often merely a thin howl. At times he sounds a bit like Bono -- but it's possible that my impression of that similarity means that I need to shake the water from my ears.
It's crucial to stress that TSOOL doesn't just spit out a mishmash of their influences -- they reshape the legacy of their musical ancestors and make it new. "Chromosome Layer" is a quiet, folksy, cricket-accented acoustic guitar lullaby to the bewildering whirl in which DNA experiments have placed us: "Building is too easy / when you're chopping down your family tree". "Endless Song", a soaring, crepuscular trip across the sky, is passion-sodden and pear-blossom pretty at the same time, if that's possible. "Confrontation Camp", unhappily named, compares a dead relationship to the Holocaust: "I'm on a train to a confrontation camp / Please tell me how to get off." The crashing cymbals, thick, swinging Doors-ish guitar chords, stomp-rhythm bass notes and wild-man blues piano are all designed to rattle the floorboards. It's riveting and anthemic and sure to rock the house, wherever it's played. If Jerry Garcia had ever tweaked instead of mellowed, the Dead might have sounded like this.
Welcome to the Infant Freebase promises a return to real-life rock-n-roll -- a heartening prospect for those who find the era of twee Belle and Sebastian types a bit nelly for their tastes. Hitch up your jeans, junior, pull out some suds and prepare to be moved to the tips of your boots, whether they're steel-toed or lizard cowboy.