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, when 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 attempt to emulate your heroes, yet ultimately fall short on the talent front and end up looking very silly indeed. But The Soundtrack of Our Lives weren’t an Oasis, or a Stereophonics, or even The Black Crowes, no they were a band that assimilated their influences, but ended up managing to transcend rather than be restricted by them. Welcome to the Infant Freebase, wasn’t so much a debut, more a manifesto of a rock band who could both celebrate the past, but retain their own identity.
While much of The Soundtrack of Our Lives’ music does recall old masters such as The Who, The Doors and even The Stooges, it’s not derivative. It updates it, it puts a fresh spin on it and it has unique qualities of its own. While their chunky riffs, swirling psychedelia and rocking tunes certainly recall the music of the early 70s, it still managed to keep one foot very much in the present. It’s the best of both worlds, which is no easy task to pull off, yet TSOOL could write big proper rock songs, with big proper riffs, boast a frontman that can actually sing, and musicians that can really play. Having seen them live I can also confirm that this wasn’t just down to studio trickery, as few modern bands could rock with the fervour of TSOOL.
Welcome to the Infant Freebase is an album of rare substance, which given its ambitious length, is no small achievement. Boasting a selection of rock songs that range from swipes at the music industry (“Underground Indian”), pop-rockers (“Four Ages (part 2)”, “Blow My Cool”), hard rockers (“Confrontation Camp”, “Mantra Slider”) and even the odd acoustic number (“Bendover Babies”). These regular changes in mood and style could have given Welcome to the Infant Freebase a feeling of a compilation, were it not for the fact that the band manage to shift seamlessly between each style without losing the flow of the album. Much of this strength is down to the fact that even before TSOOL were formed, the individual band members had cut their teeth in a variety of other semi-successful bands and therefore had a wealth of experience to draw upon when cutting their debut.
If you are a fan of 70s rock, you owe it to yourself to give Welcome to the Infant Freebase a chance, if only to prove to yourself that even in the mid 90s they could still make them like they used to, instead of being over-awed by the giants of the past. Those that are fond of more modern sounds should also pay attention, as TSOOL show how this retro rock malarkey could be done without sacrificing your own identity.