Album: The Soundtrack of our Lives

Behind the Music, Telegram/Warner Bros
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The Independent Culture

The Scandinavian takeover of pop continues apace with this larger-than-life slice of elegant indie-rock by a Swedish band whose monumental ambition dwarfs the meagre desires of most of their UK and American counterparts.

Like so many of their fellow Nordics, the Gothenburg sextet the Soundtrack of Our Lives are deeply in thrall to the transatlantic psychedelia of an earlier, less complex age. Unlike most of their peers, however, they're not prepared to sacrifice power for sensitivity: the fingerstyle guitar and intimate vocal of "In Someone Else's Mind" might resemble Pink Floyd in their quieter, more reflective moments, but the declamatory chording of "Sister Surround" is made of rather sterner stuff, being closer in spirit to the Pretty Things on their 1968 album SF Sorrow, poised midway between their original tough white R&B and their more paisley-hued incarnation.

Only on the ghastly "Mind the Gap" do the band teeter over the edge into the full-blown, mellotron-swathed pomp of Seventies prog-rockers such as Styx. The rest of the time, such inclinations are held in check by a taste for the raw and visceral, in things like the raggedy blues stomp "Keep the Line Movin'" and the druggy, garage-punk organ and tinny guitar of "Still Aging", a self-deprecatory musing upon time that finds whiskery frontman Ebbot Lundberg disarmingly claiming that "Here's a song I wrote a hundred thousand years ago".

In terms of the psychedelic mindset, Behind the Music is as accurate lyrically as it is musically, littered with cod-philosophical lines such as "It's not too late to free your mind", "You're the echo of the things I say" and "Mind the net you cast out/ And the fields full of doubt", which could have come straight off a Yes album (except that it does actually make sense as a metaphor, however mixed it is). Perhaps keenly aware of the more risible aspects of their chosen style, Lundberg acknowledges in "The Flood" that "They say we're all back-dated, and you know it's true", going on to defend the group's unashamedly anachronistic leanings by claiming, "Life is not calling for you/ When you don't know where you belong in this world".

Certainly, TSOOL do seem somewhat adrift of contemporary mores for much of the time, persevering with high-minded hippie ideals more than 30 years after they were ground to dust in the Me Decade. "Remember how it all used to be?" asks Lundberg, glumly surveying the cultural wreckage of late capitalism. "Well, everybody wants to be in independent luxury/ Everybody wants to be the enemy." Gazing over a music scene that seems to be characterised by short-term greed and unconscionable arrogance, in which even the notional outlaws of hip hop have their grubby little noses pressed hard against the same shop-windows as the bourgeoisie, it's hard not to sympathise with TSOOL's bitterness, and applaud their efforts accordingly. They mean it, maaan.

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