Music Reviews
Communion

The Soundtrack of Our Lives Communion

(Yep Roc) Buy it from Insound Rating - 6/10

Back in 2002, The Soundtrack of Our Lives were very nearly the “next big thing.” They were hotly tipped by the music press, endorsed by Noel Gallagher (they toured the USA with Oasis) and were Grammy-nominated for their album, Behind the Music. Unfortunately for them, the breakthrough alternative acts from that year were either grunge revivalists (The Vines), arty and with self-conscious cool to spare (The Strokes) or served up their rock drenched in blues (The White Stripes, Kings of Leon). The Soundtrack of Our Lives joined that all-too-long list of bands who didn‘t convert media attention and hype into popularity and sales.

They’ve been plugging away ever since though, and after abandoning their Origin Vol. 2 project (the proposed follow-up to 2004’s Origin Vol. 1), they return with Communion; their first double-album, consisting of 24 tracks which span two CDs. The opening few bars of the first track are oddly reminiscent of Sigur Rós, but that proves to be a red herring and it becomes apparent that TSOOL have spent the last four of five years doing their homework and learning their trade.

The first disc recalls many of the best-loved and biggest-selling rock artists of the last fifty years. Shades of The Who, Oasis, Jane’s Addiction and Primal Scream pervade every track, yet it rarely sounds derivative, as it has enough imagination and invention to be greater than the sum of its parts. In a similar way to The Hold Steady, TSOOL manage to create something which draws on a myriad of ideas whilst maintaining its own unique and unmistakeable identity.

Opening track, Babel On, is about as clear a statement of intent with which an album can begin; a six and a half minute towering rock behemoth, where booming drums collide with a crunching wall of guitars. It demands your attention and it demands to be played loud. The theme continues with Universal Stalker, before a couple of insubstantial, forgettable tracks creep in which veer dangerously close to ‘landfill indie’ territory. However, Ra 88 soon picks up the pace again, with drummer Fredrik Sandsten maintaining skill and precision whilst displaying the energy of a hyperactive child denied adequate Ritalin.

Lead single, Thrill Me, deserves to be all over the radio, combining as it does the beat of the Primal Scream classic, Rocks, with Rolling Stones guitars and an irresistible chorus. Radiohead this ain’t. Experimentalism, ambient, minimalism and dubstep all have their place, but this is good, old-fashioned, big, dumb rock which wears an enormous smile on its face and is all the better for it.

As far as the rest of the disc goes, Second Life Replay is a Medieval ballad that gradually builds and builds before somehow morphing into an Iron Maiden-style coda. Fly is a rancid version of the Nick Drake song of the same name, which manages to simultaneously sound like it was arranged with the aim of being commissioned for the Guitar Hero series and like it was recorded in 1988. Further tracks are slightly devoid of ideas, and the unique identity which was a positive to begin with, becomes more of a blessing than a curse as time progresses, as songs start to become more indistinguishable.

If the first disc is the in-your-face, good-time party album, then the latter disc is the introspective and maudlin younger brother, jealous at the attention-seeking of its sibling. All twelve tracks are tainted with disappointment, and it’s tricky to get enthused about them when faced with the memory of the previous dozen.

It’s not all bad news though; first track Everything Beautiful Must Die is The Jesus and Mary Chain if they’d discovered a few more instruments, even if the title inadvertently sums up disc two‘s attitude. Every track has redeeming features, but an over-reliance on drone and reverb leaves the listener fairly underwhelmed and nursing a nagging feeling of disappointment.

The longer Communion goes on, the more the ideas dry up. Songs such as Lost Prophets in Vain and Reconnecting the Dots groan under the weight of lazy lyrics, as if Ebbot Lundberg has been reading the book of songwriting clichés. Closing track, The Passover, hints at the excitement of the first disc and is a worthy climax, but in reality it’s too little too late. The chances are that you’ll have given up before then as sadly, listening to the 90-odd minutes of Communion turns out to be more of a test of endurance than an enjoyable experience.

Actually, Communion is a very good album; it’s just a shame it’s been spread out over the space of two albums. It could even be a good idea for the future; a kind of musical mix-and-match, where bands send their fans 25 tracks, and the ones that make up the album are selected by committee.

A little bit more rigorous quality control, and TSOOL could have had something with the potential to finally break them into the mainstream. They’ve recently won Best Group at the Swedish equivalent of The Grammys, so this album won’t be their last, but only time will tell how they’ll fare in comparison with the rest of the Class of 2002. For now; B minus, must try harder.
 

Comments for Communion review

I have to agree...

I enjoyed their pre-Behind The Music stuff like 1996's Welcome to the Infant Freebase - check out Instant Repeater '99 and Confrontation Camp, cracking tunes - but they've always had a slightly self-indulgent side, as this double album shows. 24 tracks is just too much to wade through. They should have picked the best ten and stuck the others on their website as a download-only outtakes record.

And the cover art is just horrible. It looks like an ad for some sort of chalky calcium/vitamin D osteoporosis treatment.

That's a better idea...

than my 'tracklisting by committee"! I'm always wary of double albums full stop, but when you're a straight-up rock band whose forte is three-minute pop songs, there's just really no reason at all to do it.

You're completely right about the cover art. It's also got four symbols in the middle if you look closely, which look like the logos photography companies put on their pictures online so you can't copy them. It took me about three or four websites before I was convinced that this was the actual cover - it's that horrible!

Communion

Best way to listen to this album is at random. I actually enjoy listening to it and find after repeated listens brilliant. Give it a change. Music like this has to grow on you. Next time you're reviewing this album, you'll say it's the best of the year. i guarantee this.

Your review have so much of

Your review have so much of your personal taste, because for me the album is excellent like the others albums fo the band. Just my personal taste, but i don`t write for a review. You must to be more professional and leave your taste apart!!

I disagree entirely with this

I disagree entirely with this review. Every album the band puts out is long because they are trying to please their very loyal, and dedicated fan-base. They don't want to break out into the mainstream, they've made that clear. This reviewer doesn't understand TSOOL at all, I've been a fan of the band my entire life and I know what the band is all about and why they make the albums they do. And the cover of the album is like that on purpose, it's supposed to represent the fake, and materialistic world we live in today. Do your research before you write such a biased review. This album is amazing, I love all beautiful 24 tracks on the album and wouldn't have it any other way. TSOOL makes albums for real music fans, not for people who are too lazy to "wade" through an artist's hard work.

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