One of the recent threads on the DOA message board dealt with the comparison between the rock of the 60’s and 70’s and what has become of it today. We debated whether bands were better those days or merely appear better by virtue of decades hearing the same songs and adapting to them. There’s no doubt that rock has evolved and been pushed in new directions. But not all of today’s bands are so willing to put aside the influences of The Who, The Rolling Stones, and Iggy Pop.
The Swedish sextet The Soundtrack of Our Lives have named this, their third full-length album, Behind the Music, and it’s clear that what’s behind the music is 30 years of British and American classic rock. You can namedrop all the stalwarts, from the Stones and Who to MC5 and Iggy Pop. Done up in a great big radio-friendly sound, on the surface The Soundtrack of Our Lives sound like they’re rehashing old favorites. But it’s below the surface, on the multiple listen, that you realize these guys have added more hooks than even those catchy old rock favorites had, and they layer in unique instrumentation from sitar and mellotron to horns and strings and just lush backing harmonies.
“Infra Riot” starts things off, and it’s easy to overlook the accordion and soft keys that provide a stellar backdrop to an otherwise straight-forward Detroit-rock-city track of bouncy hooks and emphatic vocals. And “Sister Surround,” excepting the bluesy snarl of Mick Jagger, has a Stones- and Who-like feel that can’t be denied. Perhaps a bit more poppy and hooky, this song is undeniably the best track on this catchy album. A bit more old-style Stooges, “21st Century Rip Off” even has some of the society indignation of those early punk bands. A bit of the MC5 era style and groove comes in with “Keep the Line Movin’,” and the ripping guitar solos of “Independent Luxury” are vintage Neil Young and Crazy Horse. “Still Aging” brings to mind The Who and even Dylan, much more acoustic and folk-leaning, while “The Flood” goes off on an up-tempo, jangling psychedelic rock track that’s surprisingly well done.
At times, the band has their own unique sound, especially on the quieter tracks. Dabbling with bits of Nick Drake and Red House Painters only done more poppy, “In Someone Else’s Mind” is a quiet, lovely track with some spacey guitar, and the organ-filled “Broken Imaginary Time” has a more modern, alternative feel. Piano and acoustic guitar make the framework to the stellar “Mind the Gap,” which reminds me of a Sugar song, even in the vocals. The purely poppy “Nevermore” does draw from 80’s British pop with light piano and acoustic guitar, but it has a more modern feel, and it’s another favorite here.
This band clearly knows its influences and isn’t ashamed to wear them on their sleeves. Yeah, the 60’s and 70’s rocked. There were so many good bands back then, and you can’t let that die out by always going in new directions. But The Soundtrack of Our Lives adds their own twist to that style and does it well. Still, after the first few listens, I’m left more fond of their own, more unique songs. Maybe it shows why I don’t still listen to the classic rock station in town.