It takes the Soundtrack of Our Lives, on their third album, Behind the Music, recently released on Universal Records, 12 minutes and 52 seconds to announce their plans: “Cause we’re takin’ over/ If you got nothing to say/ Yes we’re taking over/ And we might as well blow you away.”
Big words for a group whose first language isn’t even English, but not quite a shocker; any band who claims to present the soundtrack of one’s life must be at least a little presumptuous. Yet by the 13-minute mark, there was no doubt in my mind that TSOOL could hold true to their word.
TSOOL aren’t content to stick with one musical style; one track has references to Pink Floyd, another reinterprets the Who. “Broken Imaginary Time” a very eerie track, full of wailing organs and haunting lyrics, is followed by the catchy foot-stomper “21st Century Rip Off.” Next comes the piano-driven “Tonight.” Is TSOOL schizophrenic? Possibly, but what nicely ties the whole album together is front man Ebbot Lundburg’s vocals. Both deep and airy, his voice floats from track to track, connecting each piece of the psychedelic puzzle.
The music, blending Western and Eastern elements, builds up to mammoth heights, and at times the buzz of sitars and hum of guitars overwhelm the lyrics. Considering the lyrics are written in what TSOOL considers to be a foreign language, when they are the focus of a track, such as on “Surround Sister,” they not only work, but work wonderfully. “You’re a rhyme without reason/ And you know it so well/ Who’s the king of the season/ Well you never could tell.” I very nearly pulled out the incense (Yes, the ones I bought in sixth grade without any intention of ever actually lighting) just to complete the mood. With brutal honesty and simplicity, TSOOL manages to create startlingly touching lyrics. Lundberg’s voice is so smooth and comforting that even potentially condescending lines such as, “You’re such a nobody at all,” seem to be only a gentle whisper in my ear.
The last three tracks lack the flair that defines earlier tracks, but the beautiful melodies make up for it. And in the end, that’s really what the album is all about — sound. By adding psychedelic flourishes to a rock beat, this Swedish band rise above the garage rock that has been famously touted in the past year as Sweden’s largest export (minus Volvo’s of course).
I had some how managed to avoid listening to TSOOL, not for any reason better than I was just too lazy. So when I finally got the album, I really wanted to be unimpressed. I wanted to be smug, with an “I-knew-it-wasn’t-worth-my-time” grin on my face. But I couldn’t get myself to do it. And by the time TSOOL announced their plan to take over my mind, I had already given it up to them without objection.