Here’s one of my favorite stories about Sweden’s The Soundtrack of Our Lives: They were hanging out at home with Sonic Youth (presumably in Thurston and Kim’s house, which I imagine as a bizarre combo of domestic bliss and artrock chaos) when the lusty Swedes professed a sincere affection for Fleetwood Mac. And this, according to an interview with TSOOL singer Ebbot Lundberg, was the end of what could have been a beautiful friendship.
Although it is sort of funny to me that Sonic Youth—who are like millimeters away from becoming a jam band themselves—would make fun of someone else’s hippie taste, it’s not just Sonic Youth’s hypocrisy that I enjoy about this story, true or not. What I like is that TSOOL, perhaps because they are not embedded in American culture, have inherited none of its cliques or snobbery. That Sonic Youth provide the contrast just makes it all the more amusing. I mean, I love SY just as much as anyone in my demographic, but you must admit they represent a certain kind of rock aristocracy.
The Soundtrack of Our Lives sprang from the ashes of another band, Union Carbide Productions, who were one of Sweden’s most important bands ever. And they made no small impact over here, either: they got Steve Albini to produce them and garnered fans like the Jesus Lizard and the afore-mocked Sonic Youth. This genealogy points to the fact that TSOOL are kind of like Sweden’s Beatles.
And back in 1998, when this album was first released in Europe, they sounded like it, too. Subsequent efforts (this year’s Behind the Music) sound a lot more like a tribute to the guitar rock of the ‘70s. But Extended Revelation, the band’s third release, is pretty much an extended homage to Britain’s Finest. Others honored besides the Fab Four are the Rolling Stones and the Kinks. The second song on the album, “Psychomantum X2000”, eerily echoes the Beatles’ “Tomorrow Never Knows”.
For all that TSOOL never really sound like they’re ripping anybody off. They’re just cheerfully, unapologetically playing the music they love best. There’s lots of silvery guitar here, awash in backing vocals, and some Hammond organ to boot.
In addition to the decidedly psychedelic feel, Extended Revelation goes for a bit of millennial mawkishness—besides the “X2000” song title, the entire album is subtitled for the Psychic Weaklings of the Western Civilization. That’s because in 1998 the most we had to worry about was whether our computers would unleash apocalyptic chaos when the clock rolled over.
We now know that we’ve got a lot more to concern ourselves with: enough to make the alarmists of the past sound like oracles. But Extended Revelation is a great little trip into escapism, Swedish/Britpop style.
// Notes from the Road
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