[17 March 2009]
Like many of their contemporary Swedish brethren, the Soundtrack of Our Lives are old-school dudes. Their American breakthrough album, Behind the Music (2002), bubbled over with Stonesy riffs, Pink Floydian atmosphere, and direct lifts from the Beatles’ recording playbook. They haven’t found a way to newly contextualize these touchstones so much as they’ve learned to live within them—they just weren’t made for these times, I guess, or perhaps the times are meant to indulge them their guardianship of classic rock’s bloodline.
And like any good classic rock revivalist, the Soundtrack of Our Lives now have a double album to their name. Communion boasts 24 songs and clocks in at a little over 90 minutes. Reportedly, the song total is meant to reflect the hours in a day, no doubt eye-rolling news to those who are already wary of double albums and their conceptual baggage. I’m not sure where in the course of the day the album is meant to begin—midnight would be the obvious choice, but the first track, the one-chord pulse “Babel On”, unfolds like a rising sun—and it’s very possible that the concept is more incidental conceit than thematic blueprint. Suffice to say, the one-song-for-each-hour-of-the-day model doesn’t exactly work—there’s no linear contrast of dark and light, early and late, or waking and sleeping. What we’re left with, then, is a mass of new Soundtrack of Our Lives songs (plus a cover of Nick Drake’s “Fly”) that, despite their individual pros and cons, are indeed a mass in some need of sorting.
There’s tremendous stuff here, no doubt: the aforementioned “Babel On” finds singer Ebbot Lundberg shouting “Come on!” like a great rock mobilizer; and songs like “Ra 88”, “Thrill Me”, and “Mensa’s Marauders” put the boot heel down with gusto. (Communion seems to channel the Who most often, both in its sheer muscle and in its flair for the dramatic ledge-teetering. See “Pictures of Youth” [hello, shades of “Pictures of Lily”?] for more.) On the other hand, some of the songs are the result of liberal recycling, not just of classic rock, but of the band’s own motifs: “Second Life Replay” and “Songs of the Ocean”, for example, exploit the Soundtrack of Our Lives’ penchant for tunes that gradually build into pulsating explosion.
Add in Lundberg’s routine clichés (“Every dog has its day”, “Get on with your life, it’s not too late”) and dull rhymes (“I’m so sad to hear you’ve lost your way / But I am all around to hear what you say”), and Communion can stall just as easily as it moves forward. It’s bigger but not necessarily better than Behind the Music, which was able to propel stand-out tracks “Sister Surround” and “Infra Riot” from the succinct fray. Communion may be a little too much like a day after all—long and full of moments that are alternately memorable and forgettable.