A PRESENT FROM THE PAST - The Soundtrack of Our Lives (Universal/Reverberation)
On the eve of their first Australian tour, local distribution label Reverberation has had the good sense to make this lavish, double CD set of TSOOL B sides and obscurities available Down Under. If that's not a masterstroke, I'm a finalist on Australian Idol.

If you don't know them, shame, here's your chance to make ammends: TSOOL come from Gothenberg in Sweden and are the world's greatest psychedelic band, bar none. Should you deem that term (psychedelic) too hackneyed to mean much (you might not be alone), think of them as a communal rock spirit summoned from the rotting carcass of '80s Stooges worshippers Union Carbide Productions (three TSOOL members having bled for them) but now moving in a very different direction.

These 32 tracks - a baker's dozen of them totally unreleased or alternate versions - don't as much recall Detroit's finest misfits as channel the ghosts of myriad other, more ethereal influences. From Love to the Fab Four in tripped-out mode, from "SF Sorrow"-vintage Pretty Things to The Who and the Stones in acoustic introspection, they're some of the more easily-grasped reference points. They are only straws for critics to grasp at, however, as TSOOL chart their own path.

The Hives and Oasis have given them public kudos but TSOOL leave both behind on the score of musical creativity. That their "Behind The Music" album garnered a Grammy nomination a few years ago is academic (it didn't win). The songs are rooted in the late '60s and early '70s, deceptively simple and delightfully out of kilter with just about anything else that's making chart action. That, and vocalist Ebbot Lundberg's penchant for kaftans, should be all the more reason to love them.

So what to expect from "A Present From The Past"? It's a sprawling collection, culled mainly from singles and their three EPs so most songs are not as immediately arresting as their better-known "hits". In fact if you're a newbie, "Behind The Music" might be the better place to start. But "Present" has depth and ultimately more places to explore for anyone paying attention. You could attach a different lyrical theme to each tune every time you play this collection and still come nowhere close in a month of high rotation, but that's both the beauty and the challenge in a record that demands something extra of the listener.

If all the forgoing makes TSOOL sound like a po-faced bunch of worthy intellectuals, think again. There's richly subtle humour and a big streak of rock running through everything on this collection, often augmented by off-beat instrumentation. Hooks abound and the collective's powered by melody more than anger, so ease your way in and listen up.

"Behind the Music" really won me and prompted some backtracking to "Welcome To The Infant Freebase" (the 1996 debut) and "Extended Revelation" (1998). "Present" fills the gaps and you'll need the more recent "Origin Vol 1" to be up-to-date.

Trust me on this one. It took prompting from three people to open my ears. Now, you're not as stupid as that? - The Barman


BEHIND THE MUSIC - The Soundtrack Our Our Lives (Telegraph/Warner Music)
What a revelation. The third album from this fab Swede psych-rock group. And it's one that would have passed us by, if not for a comment by a local (Sydney) music luminary who urged us to chase it down. Released in 2001, it's head and shoulders above anything else TSOOL have done with a ton more groove and depth.

Of course, the English music press raved about "Behind the Music" for all of 10 minutes, with the sort of rabid judgements reserved for, well , every second act that comes along, really. Fear not. Behind the hype is an amazing album that recalls all sorts of late '60s/early '70s, stuff (and I'm thinking of "Revolver" era Beatles or "Satanic Majesties" Stones) with not a touch of tweeness to be heard. Not as introspective as the band's earlier stuff, this album sets off in search of all sorts of sonic landscapes and adventures, demanding you go with them.

TSOOL are, of course, partly made up of members from Union Carbide Productions, the Stooges-influenced apocalypse that came riding a wave of squaling guitars out of the sub-Arctic north in the '80s. UCP imploded and grew up, and became TSOOL. There are traces of what went before (singer Ebet Lundberg and guitarist Ian Person being on board) but don't expect the same levels of chaos/intensity. Instrumental augmentation and arrangements abound.

Can't say I was a big fan before getting into this. Some TSOOL worked, but it was all a tad introspective or downcast with some great songs itching to get out.

But there's plenty to recommend here. "21st Century Rip Off" is Stones raunch arm wrestling with Marc Bolan. Being cheated never sounded so good. "Nevermore" is pure rocking 60s pop, simple and sweet. "Mind the Gap" is folksy psych-rock. "In Your Veins" is a bit mellow for these tastes but "The Flood" is downright pastoral before ballooning into a fullsome rocker. "Sister Surround" is more Stones grooving, all flouncing shirts and scarves and not a lot like mid-period Died Pretty.

A good part of "Behind..." is down to the groove that these guys lay down. Grooves and textures, is what they're all about. It's an album to keep returning to and one that shows that these Swedes are ahead of many of their peers in terms of mixing the musical pallette without skimping on power or attitude. - The Barman