Sweden's the Soundtrack of Our Lives have been swinging for the rock fences for a decade. Origin, Vol. 1, the band's second stateside-issued full-length, offers close, up-front proof of the inspiration for perseverance. These tracks are drenched with unabashed homages to TSOOL's heroes from rock's family tree, from the Beatles and the Rolling Stones to Love, pre-Tommy Who, the Doors, the Stooges, Barrett-era Pink Floyd, etc. And while it is true that TSOOL have dipped into the well before, on Origin, Vol. 1 they immerse themselves in it. The set opens with "Believe I've Found," a midtempo rocker. Echoes of psychedelic music from the ages waft through its mix, as Ebbot Lundberg traces through the wasteland of his past and underscores his new sense of mental and emotional equanimity without saying what it is. With a great hook, a roaring electric guitar and organ chorus, and poignant lyrics, it's one of the best tunes in the band's catalog. "Transcendental Suicide" comes right out of TSOOL's obsession with the Who, with a dramatic, tight-wristed strummed acoustic six-string flourish that gets eclipsed by an anthemic electric thrum and a propulsive bassline that rings above it all, driving the tune out of the groove and into the backbone of the listener. Lundberg spits his words, doing his best garage band wail à la Rob Younger from Radio Birdman. "Bigtime," the album's first single, is a bit more problematic. There isn't a riff and the song's hook is skeletal at best. Endlessly repetitive, it is also drenched in cheesy sequenced keyboards that are thankfully overshadowed by the electric guitars in the refrain and then eclipses itself in an orgy of noisy distortion in the bridge. Why it was chosen as a single is puzzling, to say the least. "Heading for a Breakdown" is a layered psych rock tapestry with a barely disguised riff from Buffalo Springfield's "For What It's Worth," while its overdose bass pummel displaces the hook and turns it over into a beautifully textured heavy pop song. The whomping "Mother One Track Mind" comes right out of the band's longtime Stooges worship -- and it works. Snarling, razor guitars overshadow Lundberg's vocal until the chanted distorto-groove chorus. "Midnight Children" features a guest duet vocal by Jane Birkin. Underscored by a minimal organ that threads the melody, Lundberg references Lou Reed as Birkin wafts and winds her way around his words and croons sweetly in the refrain. The Serge Gainsbourg influence on the cut is pronounced, but doesn't carry it off into parody. The hook feels organic and the duet is seamless. Ultimately, Origin, Vol. 1 is a look back through the past -- musically, personally, poetically, and culturally -- as a way of moving toward the future, celebrating its influence and shaking free of its baggage. TSOOL have arrived after a decade of carefully and meticulously crafting a passionate and compelling rock music that incorporates everything it finds genuine and necessary in pursuit of a music and lyricism that powerfully and beautifully articulate that which is less than obvious.
AllMusic Review by Thom Jurek