The Soundtrack of Our Lives

Record Review

Phases and Stages

The Soundtrack of Our Lives

Welcome to the Infant Freebase (Hidden Agenda)

The Soundtrack of Our Lives

Extended Revelation for the Psychic Weaklings of the Western Civilization (Hidden Agenda)

The Soundtrack of Our Lives

Behind the Music (Hidden Agenda)

One of the most-talked-about bands at SXSW 02, Sweden's the Soundtrack of Our Lives look back with relish on an era when rock stars made albums to change the world. Their moniker alone unfurls a sprawling canvas of objectives that transcends mere psychedelic pop nostalgia. At times, SOOL treads perilously close to hollow bombast with their Tolstoy-length albums, but such tendencies are ultimately redeemed by the band's encyclopedic recantation of pop couched in deep-dish arrangements. In addition to 2001's Behind the Music, Hidden Agenda has re-released the band's first two albums for American ears. 1996's Welcome to the Infant Freebase was originally supposed to be a 50-song box set, but even at 20 songs, it's still an exhaustive debut. "Mantra Slider" is a six-minute tribal burst of rhythm that coalesces in a firestorm of big rock theatrics, while softer, less-assuming oddities like "Chromosome Layer" and the creepy, porn-fetishing "Bendover Babies" recall Syd Barrett's solo work. 1998's Extended Revelation... is thematically much darker, geared toward early Pink Floyd in its pleas for sanity and enlightenment. The album's mood is exemplified by psychedelicized meditations like "Impacts & Egos" and "Interstellar Inferiority Complex." Then again, "Safety Operator" is fueled by a rumble-ready floor tom and guitar interplay that somehow manages to channel the Rolling Stones and Camper Van Beethoven simultaneously. Behind the Music shakes off most of the tendrils of torpidity that characterized Extended Revelations... in favor of a more accessible pop that wouldn't have sounded out of place on Top 40 radio in the Seventies. Unequivocal gems include the snide, glam-leaning "21st Century Rip-Off" and "Independent Luxury," a powerful burst of energy that pits Norman Whitfield-style psychedelic soul up against Neil Young's guitar pyrotechnics. By contrast, "Tonight" is a sparse, bittersweet piano ballad that revels in the glory of a sliver of light breaking through darkness and quite possibly the most beautiful moment in the band's recorded history. Though SOOL has eschewed distinctiveness in their quest to recapture a bygone era of rock music, their ability to tap dance effortlessly from one inspiration to another is ultimately a distinction in and of itself.

(All) *** .5

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