The Soundtrack of Our Lives were maybe the last great live act in rock and roll. Though I unfortunately never got the chance to catch a live show in person, I’ve seen enough hours of performance footage to paint a clear portrait of the band at their peak:
Ian Person twirling and jumping – flash and flair, Mattias Bärjed all Townshend windmills; wielding his guitar like a weapon of sound, the forever-cool Kalle Gustafsson Jerneholm, laying down some of the grooviest walking bass lines in existence, Martin Hederos weaving in and out of colorful complimentary melodies, Fredrik Sandsten thrashing his kit – the ghost of Keith Moon breathing life into his playing, and of course, the mystical Ebbot Lundberg; the messiah-guru of rock music, preaching the gospel of one of the greatest, and most criminally underrated rock and roll bands of the last 25 years.
I’ve written about them before, but I still feel there is more justice to be done in raising awareness of this band’s incredible legacy of music. In deciding which release I would like to highlight next, one record immediately jumped to the front of my mind. In December of 2005 the band would release one of the most unique records in their output.
A Present from the Past is listed as a compilation album, but it’s actually more of a hybrid; consisting of b-sides, out of print EPs, and unreleased material. For most artists, a collection like this would be a nice afterthought in comparison to the rest of their catalog; but for TSOOL, this sprawling 32-song collection would prove to be on par with everything they had released up to that point.
It is so rare that a band’s b-side/secondary material is as good as its studio albums, but TSOOL was always known for being the exception to the rule, and setting new standards. From the Pink Floyd-style weirdness of the Jerneholm-penned “World Bank,” to the smoldering rock and roll of songs like “Galaxy Gramophone” and “Dow Jones Syndrome” – for a lot of fans of the band, this compilation might as well be another standalone studio release.
One thing I’ve always pointed out when talking about the band, is the diversity to their forever-changing sound. No release from the band better depicts this sentiment than A Present from the Past. It’s happy and sad, angry and uplifting, all at once. There are so many shades and colors to be found throughout. So many different moods and tones. It’s the sound of six very different musicians and songwriters all contributing their own personality to the music, and the results are astounding. There’s vulnerability, piss and vinegar, and unbridled force and energy all on display in this collection of songs. This execution allows the band to construct a transportive experience that can fit any vibe the listener is feeling.
There’s trippy psychedelic space-ballads such as “When Lightning Bugs Arrive” and “Everyday Preacher,” combined with cozy acoustic comforts like “Hang Ten” and “We’ll Get By.” I’ve said this before about TSOOL, but there is melody to be found everywhere. Every fiber of each song is dripping with diverse melodic lines being played by each member of the group. This is the same genius of Brian Wilson, Roger Waters, Lennon/McCartney, of ABBA even; repackaged and repurposed as rock music in its purest form. I urge you to listen to A Present from the Past, and the rest of TSOOL’s music for that matter. In an era in which rock music is on the decline, TSOOL will make you fall in love with the genre again. It’ll remind you what guitar music once stood for, and what masterful songwriting sounds like.
Just to drive my point home, here’s one of my favorite live videos of the band. I rest my case:
Connor Strader – 07.27.18