Saturday, April 4, 2009

The Soundtrack of Our Lives' "Communion": Music Review

This fifth studio recording from this Swedish sextet ambitiously continues their spot-on blend of classic "Who's Next" sounds with a somehow more current sensibility. "Somehow": a key qualifier. I can't pinpoint how this band combines epic, cinematic ambiance with a take that refuses to succumb to the excesses of the early '70s. But, TSOOL do!

My teenaged son, usually with a sharp ear inherited from his father, identified a touch of Bowie. This meshes well along with the usual nods to not only The Who, but mid-period Stones and possibly Pink Floyd. The album art also reminded me of the glory days of Hipgnosis, especially the memorable covers and interior shots for "Wish You Were Here" and "Presence"!

The addition of a guest vocalist on two cuts gives a somewhat more world-weary, grainier delivery that enhances the equally burdened, if a bit higher-pitched, tones of the regular vocalist, accomplished Ebbot Lundsberg. The band perhaps can be made too anonymous, ironically, by their very competence! They continue their impressive ability to adapt to their musical forebears by hammering down the kind of Who-meets-Stones riffing that anchors their signature sound.

So, how's this classified as indie rock, rather than classic retreads? I still cannot account for this, but TSOOL keeps their stance light. They don't let songs drag on. They, schooled in punk, keep their appealingly accessible rock brisk.

That being said, this twenty-four track, double-record set does deliver, although the intensity of the best stretches found on their début, "Extended Revelation," or their "Origin, Vol. 1" is diminished noticeably. Not enough to disappoint, but the anthemic quality that for me encourages a turn up on the volume knob did not happen as much on "Communion."

The tracks flow nicely, and the sequencing as before shows the care with which the album has been made. I did hear precise production, and small touches hinting even at world music, sitars, harps, and percussion can be discerned. These add to the depth that I predict repeated listenings to this song cycle, following the hours of a day and night, will also reveal. It's rare these disposable days to hear a sprawling album, and another companion, committed to the serious enjoyment of punchy, not ponderous, rock.

(Posted to Amazon US today.)

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