What a great night! Capping a long CMJ Marathon weekend, the Soundtrack of Our Lives played a brilliant set at the Bowery Ballroom. And the presence of well-known rock faces like the Hives’ Pelle Almqvist, Joe Strummer and Ken Stringfellow in the club helped make it a more-than-memorable rock night out.
This is the year for the Soundtrack of Our Lives. Immediately upon the February 2002 UK release of their great new CD, Behind the Music, the buzz on the band has been incredible, with fans and reviewers comparing the band’s songwriting to the Beatles/Stones/Who pantheon and its tight energetic live shows to the best of Guided by Voices’ shows. And with Universal re-releasing TSOOL’s latest offering Behind the Music, the audience for this great Swedish band continues to build. Rock and roll the way it was meant to sound.
The Soundtrack of Our Lives is not a stranger to New York or the Bowery Ballroom, having played New York a few times since the spring. Tonight, they opened somewhat quietly with bassist Karl Gustafsson’s moody, introspective “Broken Imaginary Time” from Behind The Music. Its repeated refrain of “You’re such a lightweight after all” provided a muted, haunting opening to the highly anticipated set.
TSOOL then plunged headlong into “Infra Riot”, the supercharged riff-a-rama that opens up the band’s new CD. So welcome to the other side! This song rocks so hard with such melodic, cool flair that it should be played this whole upcoming holiday season on every single FM rock radio station.
TSOOL’s lead vocalist and band mastermind is Ebbot Lundberg, who, according to the new Universal web site, is “your everyday hippie Viking punk songwriter genius, and also a true entertainer.” His vocals are great on the CD, but on this night, his voice seemed a bit tired, perhaps wiped out from a l-o-n-g rock and roll weekend. He strained to hit some of the high points on the songs, but the rest of the band never lacked energy throughout the show.
Guitarists Mattias Barjed and Ian Person were awesome rockin’ guitar players, smashing the audience with monster riffs, cool kicks and outfit changes. Drummer Fredrik Sandsten was spot-on with bashing insistent drums all night, though, with his mild-mannered looks, he resembled the high school dork.
Lundberg meant it during “Mind the Gap” when he sang, “We’re taking over, and we might as well blow you away.” Wearing a long black caftan that silhouetted his considerable bulging stomach, Lundberg jumped into the crowd later in the set for “21st Century Ripoff”. He moved toward the back of the room, exhorting everyone to crouch down while he sang how “everyone’s been cheated by everyone,” and the house lights shone down on all. Great stuff, and the band rocked on.
Musical highlights included “Nevermore” (with Barjed sporting a double-necked guitar), “Sister Surround”, and “Instant Repeater ‘99”, though the crowd also loved the piano-driven “Tonight”, well executed by the band’s keyboardist Martin Hederos (who’s also a member of successful duo Hederos & Hellberg, who recently toured Europe with Ryan Adams).
The Cato Salsa Experience opened the triple bill, staying true to any opening act attack—keep ‘em short, fast and full of energy. Not unlike Detroit’s the Sights, this Norwegian band fused a heady brew of fast and loud garage spunk with psychedelic boogie forays. Sweden’s Citizen Bird, all six of ‘em onstage, played a psychedelic, guitar-fused heavy drone attack that on its own is a worthy sound, but the band’s singer added his Ian Curtis-inflected vocal stylings to the band’s slower, sweet songs.