Soundtrack of Our Lives' New Life - Rolling Stone
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Soundtrack of Our Lives’ New Life

Swedish rockers set to conquer America

Ebbot Lundberg cannot remember exactly when the postcard from
Kurt Cobain arrived. Lundberg, the stout kaftan-draped vocalist for
Swedish psychedelic sextet the Soundtrack of Our Lives, claims he
did not actually see it. “I heard about it from friends,” he
recalls, “and that it just said, ‘Good luck!’ I don’t know if I
believe it,” he adds, chuckling over the phone from Gothenberg,
TSOOL’s hometown on the southwest coast of Sweden.

It’s true: Cobain sent his best wishes in the summer of 1992, to
the studio in Chicago where Lundberg was busy recording what turned
out to be the last album by his pre-TSOOL band, Union Carbide
Productions. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, Union Carbide
Productions were Sweden’s majestic combined answer to the Stooges,
Black Flag and the early freaked-out Pink Floyd, a Next Big Thing
doomed by missed opportunities and inner turmoil. Henry Rollins,
Sonic Youth and R.E.M.’s Peter Buck all professed public love; the
Replacements covered Union Carbide in concert. At one point, a
small hot independent label in Seattle tried, unsuccessfully, to
sign the band for America.

“We kind of laughed — ‘What is Sub Pop?'” Lundberg says. “But I
couldn’t see Union Carbide becoming rock stars. We had the
potential, but we would have been more suicidal than any other
band. We would all be dead now. For me, Soundtrack is a
life-after-death experience — a second chance: ‘OK, this is the
afterworld.'”

It sounds and shines like heaven. Formed in 1995 by Lundberg
with Union Carbide guitarists Ian Person and Bjorn Olsson (who left
two years later), TSOOL have hit the international jackpot in the
past year: packed and critically acclaimed shows in Britain and the
U.S.; the windfall domestic release of the band’s three Swedish
albums; and a new major-label deal with Universal, which has
reissued the third and best of those records, 2001’s Behind the
Music
here, coinciding with yet another North American tour —
the third since March — beginning in New York on October 30th.

Lundberg, Person, guitarist Matthias Barjed, keyboard player
Martin Hederos, bassist Ake Karl Kalle Gustafsson and drummer
Frederick Sandsten are routinely bundled in the press with mod
squad the Hives and femme fatales Sahara Hotnights as
co-conspirators in the Scandanvian garage renaissance. But TSOOL
have long been their own phenomenon, making good on the expansive
promise of their name and pursuing the literal definition of the
word psychedelic: “of, relating to or causing abnormal
psychic effects.” Behind the death-mask cover motif of Behind
the Music
is an explosive mosaic of living history and
luminous subversion: the collision of medieval hurdy-gurdy and MC5
glam in “Infra Riot”; the shimmering jangle and driving menace of
“Nevermore” and “The Flood”; the day-glo Beggars Banquet

stomp of “21st Century Rip Off.”

“That’s the beauty of our name — we can go anywhere, without
embarrassment,” crows Lundberg, thirty-six. “Where could you go
with a name like Union Carbide Productions? It speaks for itself.
I’m surprised we even made four albums. To form this band, we had
to redo ourselves — reshift, reform, find something that is
limitless. And right now, there is a magic within us.”

It is a magic with precedent. A country that will be forever
synonymous with ABBA, Sweden has an exceptional psychedelic and
garage-rock pedigree. The country produced its own smart generation
of Nuggets combos in the 1960s, including the Tages, the
Namelosers and the Hep Stars (featuring a pre-ABBA Benny
Andersson). The experimental mid-Sixties band Parson Sound, highly
influenced by early minimalist Terry Riley, evolved into
freewheeling jammers International Harvester, while organist Bo
Hansson became an overseas cult figure with a bewitching series of
instrumental albums combining prog-rock chops and frosty cosmic
impressionism. And the Nomads were Sweden’s leading killers in the
Eighties garage revival, long before the Hives learned how to tie a
Windsor knot.

“For me, this scene has been going on for fifteen years,”
Lundberg says. “And there is a certain psychedelic atmosphere to
Sweden that I love. It’s more of an underground thing — most
people don’t even think about it. But Sweden has always been the
ideal Aquarian country — you know, free sex and everything. You
always felt you could do whatever you wanted.”

TSOOL took that license seriously. Before they even recorded a
note, Lundberg hatched a plan to introduce TSOOL to the world with
a multi-disc box set — “with a biography and everything,” he says,
“so people would go, ‘What is this? What have we been missing?'”
After debuting with a more realistic single, “Four Ages, Pts 1 and
2,” TSOOL nearly made good on the box-set concept, recording nearly
forty songs that they eventually spread out across their first two
albums, Welcome to the Infant Freebase (1996) and
Extended Revelation (for the Psychic Weaklings of the Western
Civilization)
(1998). There is another album’s worth of
material spread across singles and EPs, and Lundberg estimates that
TSOOL has amassed another thirty-five songs “that we don’t want to
use for the next album.”

“There are too many songs,” he admits, “We have too
much on our minds. that is the main problem, not the process. And
it is hard to put them together, put them all in a row to make them
feel just right. You don’t want to leave anything behind —
although we do.”

That does not include Union Carbide Productions. Between TSOOL
tours and writing jags, Lundberg is preparing — what else? — a
box set that will tell that band’s entire story. “It will have the
four albums, extra songs that were never released, live stuff,
probably some films on DVD,” Lundberg says of the project, due for
release next year. “It will be a lot of work,” he notes, with a
sigh. “Again.”

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