It seems that America has of late been opening its borders to new worlds of great music. Blame it on the success of Sigur Rós or the hipster resurgence of Os Mutantes, but I think itís about time that incredible music from places other than the UK, France and America is finally beginning to see the light of day in the US. Case in point: this amazing album by Swedish band The Soundtrack of Our Lives was released in 1998 to critical acclaim in Sweden, but is just now seeing the light of day here (to coincide with the domestic release of their new album and the re-release of their debut).
Although this six-man band is from Sweden, they have more in common with their British neighbors than with, say, The Cardigans. After the disc opens with a short instrumental, we get "Psychomantum X2000", a blatant lift of the Beatlesí "Tomorrow Never Knows"; I think they even go as far as to sample the original. The songís opening words, "Step into my afterworld, find yourself at home," are certainly an apt introduction to the long, dark, psychedelic journey that awaits the listener. Next, "Let it Come Alive" kicks in with a direct lift of Barrettís chromatic riff from "Interstellar Overdrive". At first this worried me -- but luckily, both the rest of the song, and the album, stays away from the copycat stuff. Instead, The Soundtrack of Our Lives delivers an impressive array of original-sounding rock, ranging from harpsichord laced-pop songs and dark acoustic ballads to far-out, hard-driven rock numbers. The music somehow manages to be epic, experimental and catchy all at once.
As one might gather from the gothic cover art and the extended, almost pompous title, TSOOL do everything on an epic, grandiose scale -- and as a result, the music takes on a sort of otherworldly importance. For example, the chorus from album highlight "Jehovah Sunrise" goes, "Waiting for Jehovah Sunrise. Donít you forget to put on factor #12." Or how about "Look into eternity, pay another due. Mirror balls for those who see illumination clues." This new age mysticism, mixed with an apocalyptic attitude, succeeds in part due to Ebbot Lundburgís wise and aged voice, which sounds roughly like a mix of Bono, Noel Gallagher and The Beta Bandís Steve Mason. But trust me, that's a good thing. This sometimes grand seriousness is nicely balanced by a strong penchant for experimentalism and subtle hints of lightheartedness. The group even slips into clichťd pop-rhymes: "And I canít lean upon a star/And I canít make it go too far." These points all seem to work so soundly because the music itself is so well realized and performed. There isnít one noticeably weak song among the sixteen included here.
Itís difficult to put into words, but there is something mysterious about Extended Revelation that makes it so damn good. Aside from incredible songwriting and musicianship, Iíd venture to say that the stars and planets were correctly aligned for The Soundtrack of Our Lives to create what could possibly be the album of their lives. Now that these guys have arrived, all I can do is look out into the long gray distance and wonder, what else have we been missing?