Life on Earth! Look!! There Is Life on Earth!

[Subliminal Sounds; 2007]

Styles: a return to the first summer of love
Others: Dungen, Led Zeppelin, Beatles, CSNY

Everything old is new again. Or everything old is old again. Or something. Just as Swedish stone-washed progenitors of electrified 1967-72 corpse rock, Dungen, stormed everybody's skulls a few years ago, so now has that troupe's multi-instrumentalist Mattias Gustavsson with his Life on Earth! side-project. The focus here, however, is firmly on a different, though similar, time. Aided by some Dungen dudes (including chief member Gustav Ejstes), Mia Doi Todd, Town & Country, and The Works, Look!! There Is Life on Earth! is assuredly backwards-looking, but hits the brainpan with a softer, more sensitive touch than the solid thud Dungen employs. It is full of wonder and wah and good vibes all around, man.

The record begins with “Life on Earth,” a full-throttle acid flute jam that actually gives muscle to what was previously known as the “world's wussiest instrument.” From this whirlwind woodwind opener, through the lopping “Sell Your Soul To Me” (which sounds suspiciously like a nondescript Alice in Chains snoozer, albeit with the added bonus of a wigged-out middle section), to the pastoral perfection of “City by the Sea,” Life on Earth! mixes things up like hippy crack. The last of these works best to sum up the attitude of Life on Earth! It is a delicate recollection of gentle times, of seeing past the smog to the ending of a beautiful day.

“Barefoot on Tiptoe” dips into the same acoustic pool that Jimmy Page used to swim in while producing his more reflective ruminations (“That's the Way,” “Tangerine”). Elsewhere, there are dashes of Latin stylings, more psych mindtrips, and more and more placid, casual musings. And if the intention to change things up is not driven home enough with the first 11 tracks, there are over 28 minutes of tone drone called (“Untitled”) tacked onto the end of the album to make sure everyone is still paying attention (although many will not be; it is one of the sparser things I have heard in ages, with minutes and minutes of silence).

“Life Turns Fast” is Gustavsson's turn to rip-off "Taxman" like so many before him. It is an adequate reappropriation, but when it kicks into a percussion-lover's wet dream break, it becomes something rather special. Here, and elsewhere throughout the album, the ghost of The Beatles crops up, particularly in Gustavsson's spaced-out vocal delivery, which echoes the “Tomorrow Never Knows” technique of extending vowels past their breaking point and treating them with plenty of effects. So, for instance, “Bubble of Magic” sounds like “buuuuuu-bllllllle ooooof maaaaaa-giiiiiiic.” A lot of this album reminds me of Revolver's psychedelic end-piece, actually, in that it is genuine and corny at the same time, which characterizes all persuasive lysergic rock.

Look!! There Is Life on Earth! has many similar themes running through its tracklist -- returning to nature, keeping your senses wide open, experiencing everything life affords -- the kinds of things uptight twats like myself snicker at for being too unrealistic or utopian. In the days of wine and vinyl this may have been credible, but it is 2007 and I am too cynical and have seen too much intolerance and hatred to buy into Gustavsson's message. It all comes off sounding a wee bit too trite for me, but that does not mean it isn't worth its weight in doves and flowers for others. I respect the musicianship and songwriting despite its derivativeness, and I cannot knock Gustavsson for trying to make this world a better place through music, just as I cannot bad-mouth someone for trying to get into shape through spandexed rollerblading (even if I think it looks plain ridiculous). I happen to need a little conflict in my sunshine -- but that is something I need to work on, not you good people.

1. Life On Earth
2. Sell Your Soul to Me
3. City By the Sea
4. Life Turns Fast
5. Endless Variety
6. Barefoot On Tiptoe
7. Bubble of Magic
8. You Are There
9. After a Few Years We Settled Down, Got Kids and Bought Our First Car
10. Last Chapter of Dreaming
11. Right in Between

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