The Soundtrack of Our Lives, Golden Greats No. 1 (Akashic Records, 2011)

Before a concert of the Swedish sextet The Soundtrack of Our Lives, I got into a conversation with the person sitting next to me, who told me she had described the band to a friend as "stoner prog, but in a good way." And as much as I like the band, I can't deny that that's a reasonable description of their music. In order to appreciate the quality of their music, you do have to take their spaced-out lyrics and overly trippy song titles like "Firmament Vacation" and "Jehovah Sunrise" with a few grains of salt. But if you're a fan of old school classic rock, you'll be very hard-pressed to find a contemporary band who does it better.

I suppose that a discussion of their recently released compilation Golden Greats No. 1 requires a summary of their history. During their fifteen-year career, The Soundtrack of Our Lives have released five studio albums.  The first two, Welcome to the Infant Freebase and Extended Revelation (for the Psychic Weaklings of the Western Civilization), were recorded with the original line-up of Ebbot Lundberg (vocals), Björn Olsson (guitars), Ian Person (guitar), Kalle Gustafsson (bass), Martin Hederos (keyboards), and Fredrik Sandsten (drums). The band haven't really strayed far from the sound they established on these two recordings, and the anthemic hard rocker "Confrontation Camp" off their debut remains a staple of their live shows.  Lundberg wrote the lyrics and Olsson wrote most of the music initially, but Olsson quit in 2000 and was replaced by Mattias Bärjed.  Bärjed and Person have taken over most of the music writing since, and the band for the most part have only gotten better. Behind the Music, released in 2001, broke the band internationally. "Sister Surround" remains their biggest hit, and can lay claim to being one of the best rock songs of the 00s. They followed this up in 2004 with my favorite of their albums to date, Origin Vol. 1. "Bigtime" and "Believe I've Found" are worthy inclusions on this compilation, but the album had plenty of great rock and roll throughout. Originally the band planned to put out Origin Vol. 2 shortly thereafter, but they eventually scrapped that idea. It took four years for the band to re-emerge with the bloated, 150-mniute long double CD Communion. Communion boasts some fine acoustic songs like "The Passover" and "Flipside," and a catchy pop song in "Thrill Me," but it would have benefited from being shortened some.

The two "new" songs on Golden Greats No. 1, "Earthmover" and "Karmageddon," are actually holdovers from the Origin sessions. Neither sounds out of place here, and "Karmageddon" particularly exceeds any expectations that the title might leave you with. Otherwise, while not exactly the "best of" I would have made -- I feel that Origin vol. 1 is underrepresented here -- Golden Greats No. 1 does show The Soundtrack of Our Lives to be very good at times, even if they're sometimes good in spite of themselves. The band are devout believers in the power and majesty of rock, and they'll connect with anybody who's ever felt that way themselves at some point.

Overall grade: A

reviewed by Scott

the original TSOOL line-up performs "Confrontation Camp"

"Sister Surround"

"The Passover"

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