T.S.O.L. - Life, Liberty & the Pursuit of Free Downloads (Cover Artwork)
Staff Review


Life, Liberty & the Pursuit of Free Downloads (2009)


T.S.O.L. is a legendary band by any standard and nothing can change that. But what a lot of people seem to forget is that a form of the band put out a small library of mediocre-to-bad records in the 1980s and early `90s without Jack Grisham: Wham, bam, no thank you, Ma'am. So before flinging about any standard volleys of internet critique, let's all heave a sigh of content that the name T.S.O.L. is in the right hands. And that they're still making good music. And that they're giving it away for free.

This whole "free-music-via-corporate-sponsors" scheme that acts like Pennywise and now T.S.O.L. are experimenting with is quite the conundrum. On the one hand, it could be argued that such a move is the epitome of selling out to corporate behemoths. However, much can be said about the bands' willingness to offer up their music to fans free of charge, especially given this time of uncertainty in the music industry. And in T.S.O.L.'s case, Hurley has been a cornerstone of Southern California's skate and surf community for over a decade so it makes it a little easier to swallow (even if it is now owned by Nike).

The curiously but appropriately titled Life, Liberty & the Pursuit of Free Downloads is a slicker, more finely-tuned continuation of their last proper studio full-length, 2003's Divided We Stand. The horror-punk pioneers re-emerge with "Come Into My Nightmare," a rock and roll romp that proves 30 years of T.S.O.L. hasn't slowed them down at all. Those familiar with charismatic frontman Jack Grisham's outrageous narratives in the 2006 documentary film American Hardcore will find amusement in "She's Got a Bomb," which finds Grisham on the opposite end of an explosive acquaintance. The band dips into its first foray of a more cinematic approach on the album with "The Pain That We Go Through," a loungey, multi-layered pop tune that bears some of Grisham's finest crooning between bars of subtle, creepy whispering and a tempo roughly half that of the rest of the album. The drum-dominated punk rock of "We're Together" gets things back to speed immediately before the album's catchiest song "Go to Bed Sleepy" seems to channel the hooks of the band's early days, as does the following track "Love That Mess." "Someone Like You" is a classic T.S.O.L. mid-tempo rocker with atmospheric keyboards floating freely and some of the album's smoothest vocal stylings that closes out the effort in fine form.

So T.S.O.L. has made another great album and made it available for free. Now everybody go buy a pair of Hurley surf shorts. Summer is just around the corner.