The day was February 5th, 2002. Me and the gang were at the London Astoria to see Ash. An impressive rock band from Northern Ireland called Jetplane Landing had just played. Hundred Reasons were up next. But first, a band from Sweden that we’d heard of but didn’t know anything about. The Soundtrack of Our Lives.
They come out, metaphorical guns blazing. The singer looks and dresses the way I imagine Friar Tuck looked and dressed. The first song has a huge intro, with a simple guitar riff and huge drums. Everyone is already clapping along. The strobe lights are blinding. The drums cut out for a second and then – BAM – the song really takes off. This song is called ‘Infra Riot’ and I am in love with this band. It took about ninety seconds.
Since they were only third on a four-band bill, they only had about half an hour, but they filled it with tracks from their then-new album ‘Behind the Music’. In addition to ‘Infra Riot’, the songs ‘Broken Imaginary Time’ (I wrote at the time: “like early Mercury Rev, when they too had a fat guy singing over epic, sprawling backgrounds”) and ‘Sister Surround’ made a strong impression. During the Stonesy ‘21st Century Ripoff’, lead singer Ebbot got everyone in the crowd to sit down, and then walked over, climbed the barrier and stood amongst us. It was cool. They closed with ‘Nevermore’, and I bought the album then and there.
I don’t really like “older” music. I’ve never had a Beatles/Stones/Zepellin/Floyd phase. So what I liked about ‘Behind The Music’ was that it sounded like the best qualities of all those bands. ‘Sister Surround’ has really pretty west coast (of Sweden) harmonies. ‘Still Aging’ is an old-timey singalong. Everything on the album – perhaps a little bloated at 15 tracks and 58 minutes – sounded vintage but fresh. Though I played the album a lot during the spring of 2002, I never really was inspired to check out their previous work. Not sure why. I guess ‘…Music’ just sounded so complete and satisfying that I didn’t feel compelled to see what they had done beforehand.
I saw the band again in early May, headlining at the Astoria 2. The band took to the stage and opened with an older song, introduced by Ebbot thus: “This is called ‘Rest in Piece’. Not “peace”, but “piece” as in “piece of shit”.” Good start. They pull the same “everyone sit down” trick during ‘21st Century Ripoff’ and it’s still cool – even though people sat on top of other people. They were clearly having a lot of fun on stage, throwing shapes and milking the moments, but the songs were strong enough that everyone went along with it. On the way out of the venue, I got a text informing me that Arsenal had beaten Manchester United, and thereby secured the League and Cup double. Yeah. It was a great night. The next month, at Glastonbury, we got up early on the Sunday to see TSOOL open the Other Stage. Ebbot threw us a can of beer, but unfortunately his microphone chord wasn’t long enough to make it into the audience. The set was as fun as usual, though a huge stage, broad daylight and a huge spacial gulf between fans and band was not ideal for seeing them.
Surprisingly, after moving to the States, I never really thought about the band much. I still enjoyed spinning ‘Behind the Music’ every so often, and continued putting ‘Infra Riot’ or ‘Nevermore’ on mixtapes, but I’ve not been bothered to listen to any of the band’s subsequent releases. They’re still going strong. They put out a Best Of last year, called ‘Golden Greats No. 1’, and there’s new music due from them next month. Do I care about them a decade later? Not really. But for a few months, ten years ago, I was under the spell of The Soundtrack of our Lives.