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Album Review

Issuing a double album in the 21st century, with increasing industry focus on single tracks and ring tones, seems crazy at best, pretentious at worst. Communion, the fifth album by Gothenburg, Sweden's rock sextet the Soundtrack of Our Lives, proves that assertion to be dead wrong. This band has stubbornly followed an inner sense of direction that embraces paradox while using the very best of what rock & roll has to offer in order to create powerful music. Communion's 24 tracks are spread over two discs; its total playing time is over 90 minutes. Communion is a loosely based concept record. It addresses alienation and other difficulties of mass culture run amok with technological innovation, yet it unapologetically seeks — and finds — hope in the madness. Each of its 24 tracks represents an hour of the day. Paradoxically, these songs stand independently of one another. They flit from hook-laden, '70s guitar rock to layered '60s-style pop-psych that owes much to Ray Davies' Kinks, the Who, and Pink Floyd. These songs start with the notion of acceptance, and look for connections inside the chaos rather than pointing out the obvious. These basic rock tunes are layered with effects and other sounds that never mask their melodic structures. Go no further than the spacy, psych-drenched opener "Babel," with its thrumming bassline, hooky organ line, rumbling tribal drums, and counterpoint six-strings playing call-and-response, with singer Ebbot Lundberg entering halfway through with his metaphysical: "We're here finalize/the friction of your rise/the twisting of your tongue/together with the sun/The language that we speak/Was spread out to complete/And communicate as one/So turn the towers of Babel on...." The beautifully multidimensional "Universal Stalker" follows with its harpsichords, acoustic and electric guitars, and Farfisa underlying Lundberg's gentle vocal. The music gradually increases in dynamic, tension, and tempo; it eventually explodes into full rock burn. The first disc also contains an utterly lovely, full-on band arrangement of Nick Drake's "Fly" that manages to transform the song into something of a smiling, psych-pop wonder, thanks to jangling electric 12-strings and big tom-toms, even as it retains the author's elegantly simple melody. Disc two begins with the tender, slide guitar-driven "Everything Beautiful Must Die," a Zen meditation on acceptance set to a faux country backbeat even as Baroque-esque pop-psych propels it forward. Communion ends with another gorgeous singalong number in "The Passover" (about waking up on the other side of transformation), but it could just as easily have concluded with the beautifully tender and largely acoustic "Lifeline," which, in just over two minutes, offers a confessional bit of instruction about surrendering to love. Communion is easily the most consistent and expansive recording Soundtrack have released yet; it proves that even without mass acceptance, they are an impressive rock band in the grand tradition they seem to worship. TSOOL freely employ rock's rich history to enhance the purpose of creative expression as an essential aspect of everyday life.

Communion, The Soundtrack of Our Lives
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