The Soundtrack of Our Lives

2.5 out of 5 Stars

From the opening riffs of Communion, one thing is brutally obvious: The Soundtrack of Our Lives embraces all things rock‘n’roll. Its vintage, classic-rock mindset separates it from most contemporary bands. Some might consider the style outdated, appealing only on long-play recordings and in sports arenas, but in TSOOL’s case, maintaining a similar sound to its predecessors is an integral part of its identity. Its anachronistic music is like an endless tribute to the forefathers of rock‘n’roll.

On Communion, a two-disc offering, TSOOL continues to wear its influences on its sleeve. Southern rock is channeled through the album’s first single “Thrill Me,” which displays a driving melody reminiscent of ZZ Top and accompanied by lead singer Ebbot Lundberg’s growling shout. “Fly” follows, and it immediately contrasts its predecessor, opening with a folk-rock guitar line that reeks of counter-culture hippie-ism. The ’60s vibe is brought full circle through feeble vocals, with lines like “Please / give me second grace.” A robust horn section provides a full, elevating sound that gives the song a soaring quality that aptly fulfills its title.

But with every successful reproduction of classic rock glory comes an equal or worse failure. “Just A Brother” experiments with one too many instruments and jumbled synth drones, none of which produce any discernible melody. It comes out like ’70s prog gone wrong (if prog were ever right in the first place). “Distorted Child” is a muddled mess of disfigured vocals and sloppy guitar hackery. Its frantic, out-of-control tempo renders it a poor selection to close out the first disc.

“Utopia” starts off promisingly with a few ambitious opening bars, but it’s void of a memorable guitar riff and never really gets off the ground. Luckily, the album’s final song, “The Passover,” is a triumphant closer. It begins with a shy bongo rhythm that crescendos with a daunting pipe organ bellow. A chanting chorus of “Don’t worry / Stop hurrying / Get on with your life / It’s not too late,” shows Lundberg’s knack for sporadic one-liners. On the whole, however, Communion is much more notable for its music than its lyrics.

At an exhausting 24 songs, Communion’s length is questionable, especially when considering tracks like “Digitarian Riverbank,” an instrumental number that exhibits solid musicianship but adds nothing to the record that it didn’t already have. The disc could’ve done without much of the similar filler that bloats its length to a completely unnecessary 93 minutes.

The Soundtrack of Our Lives could easily be criticized for its classic rock tendencies and disregarded as a band trying to be a part of something that ended three decades ago. But that would be an unfair attack. Throughout Communion, TSOOL never confines itself to one single style and doesn’t shy from occasional experimentation. TSOOL’s ability to channel its influences without copying them is commendable, but the album is exhausting and far too many songs fall short. Still, the few invigorating stylistic explorations are just enough to bring the disc up to a respectable standard.

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