The Soundtrack of Our Lives

Throw It to the Universe

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While it's commonplace for bands to overstay their welcome in pop music, one never thought that would happen to Gothenburg, Sweden's the Soundtrack of Our Lives. That said, credit has to be given that they only did so by one album instead of plodding on into musical embarrassment for a decade or two. When the band issued the double-length Communion in 2009, it was hailed by critics and fans alike as their finest achievement. It would have been a grand place to exit. It's not so much that Throw It to the Universe is a bad album; but it is quite inconsistent when compared to their best work. TSOOL has never strayed far from their '60s and '70s influences -- Pink Floyd, the Who, the Kinks, Love, etc., but they always had a very defined individual persona to add to them. But here they display a hippie, drippy, California sunshine psych that embodies the worst excesses of the era ("When We Fall"), and a penchant for the Flaming Lips circa Soft Bulletin ("Faster Than the Speed of Light"). Then there's "Busy Land." The single most embarrassing moment in their catalog because of its laughably bad lyrics about "a little white dwarf" who lives "deep in a forest so dark." To be fair, it is highly metaphorical, but the lyric excess is so ridiculous, it's impossible to take seriously. (Thankfully, the rest of the set's lyrics are up to Ebbot Lundberg's usual high standards.) Missteps aside, there are some very fine cuts here. The storming meld of acoustic and electric guitars on the title track that borrows heavily from Townshend circa Tommy with its melodic structure, but with its modern production and the band's dynamic chemistry, it erupts into a 21st century anthem. "Freeride," with its melancholy chord changes and poignant lyrics, brings alienation to the fore with striking guitar interplay and haunting organ work. The breezy slide guitar break that introduces "If Nothing Lasts Forever" is buoyed by a layered wave of acoustics and resonant drums that sound live. The hook is wide open, the lyrics offer a goodbye that presents total empathy, acceptance, and openness. "What's Your Story" begins as an idiosyncratic waltz, but explodes into rockist drama. Throw It to the Universe is aptly titled; what's there, however imperfect, with diamonds co-existing side by side with coal, is out of TSOOL's hands now, and in the world's. It's a no fanfare goodbye from a band that always, always, did things on their own terms.

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