Retro rock is a risky business. If you pay homage to your influences too closely you risk ending up in a creative cul-de-sac, where your fans don’t need to know what your new album is like, only if it is any good. In a worse case scenario you could do all you can to emulate your heroes, but still fall short on the talent front and end up looking very silly indeed. The Soundtrack of Our Lives were a band smart enough to assimilate their influences, but they managed to transcend them rather than being restricted by them. Not every great band has to reinvent the wheel, some can nod to the past without getting utterly caught up in it and still put their own stamp on it. At this point in their careers TSOOL had spent five years of being the best-kept secret in Scandinavia, but with finally went global with Behind The Music. Or at least they would have done if anyone had been paying them the slightest bit of attention.
Behind The Music was TSOOL’s most direct album, as it found them at their most commercial and approachable, yet it maintained a level of inventiveness that marked them out from the average run-of-the-mill retro rockers. These weren’t your average gibbon-limbed Neanderthals who only got where they were by appealing to the lowest common denominator, this was a full-blooded rock band who knew you need more than just a Badfinger-haircut and a copy of my-first-book-of-guitar-riffs to truly nail the timeless rock band sound. This was a rock band prepared to lose half their bodyweight in sweat to win a crowd over, which given the size of frontman Ebbott Lundberg, was a serious show of commitment. Not every rock band are fronted by a huge bear-like figure wearing a cassock, but then again not every rock band were capable of creating the religious fervour of a TSOOL gig.
As previously stated, the songs that made up Behind The Music were TSOOL’s most commercial to date (“Infra Riot” was even been utilised in a Sainsburys advert!), so quite why this album didn’t manage to push them into rock’s super league is something of a mystery. Songs like “Sister Surround”, “Mind The Gap”, “21st Century Rip Off” and “Tonight” are among the strongest of their career and the album as a whole is one of the strongest in the rock genre this century. Only with “Nevermore” is quality control briefly dropped and even then it’s the kind of tune that most Britpop acts would have sold their Beatles and Jam albums for.
TSOOL would ultimately never achieve the international recognition that they genuinely deserved. At this point in their career they’d already been around the block a few times, they weren’t particularly photogenic, barely got played on the radio outside of Scandinavia and they were rarely championed in the press. Maybe Behind The Music is one of those albums that will get rediscovered by future generations, a hidden gem that was obscured by a host of lesser acts and albums. It’s day in the sun may yet arrive.