Free Your Ass and Your Mind Will Follow
Most contemporary rock bands bore me, says Dennis Lyxzen, front man for the Swedish socialist punk-soul quintet the (International) Noise Conspiracy. Theyre just a representation of nothing -- a band that wants to play music. I dont expect every band in the world to be a political band, but I do wish that sometimes people would talk about more important stuff than their girls and their cars.
With songs like Born Into a Mess, Bigger Cages, Longer Chains and Capitalism Stole My Virginity, the (I)NCs third album, A New Morning, Changing Weather, is obviously treading deeper waters than, say, the latest offerings from Train or American Hi-Fi. But while countless politically oriented bands have run aground on the rocks of musical monotony, the (I)NC boasts a sound thats as stimulating as its lyric sheet. On A New Morning, Changing Weather, mid-60s garage fuzz collides with slashing punk power chords, giddy organ runs, dyspeptic sax squawks, and drum fills that could trigger more aneurysms than a Knotts Berry Farm thrill ride. If the albums intent is to inspire listeners to question capitalism, it seems equally calculated to make Noam Chomsky readers run out and grab a copy of the Stooges Funhouse.
From the moment we started, the idea was to play music that everyone can relate to, and juxtapose it with the most radical politics, says Lyxzen. The plan is to confuse people, to make the political kids dance and make the people who are just into music go, Wait, what are they talking about? Just challenge people in that way.
Lyxzen originally sang for the hardcore band Refused, whose 1998 swan song, The Shape of Punk To Come, is still deeply revered by punks and metalheads alike. When Refused disbanded, Lyxzen recruited guitaristkeyboardist Sara Almgren, guitarist Lars Stromberg, bassist Inge Johansson and drummer Ludwig Dahlberg from various local art, punk and noise outfits, forming a sort of Swedish punk supergroup in the process. Survival Sickness, the (I)NCs first full-length album for EpitaphBurning Heart, was equal parts jarring punk racket, classic pop hooks and all-night soul-band beats; A New Morning, Changing Weather further refines the approach, spitting out bits of Blondie, the Kinks, the Smiths, James Brown and the aforementioned Stooges as it charges along.
We just try to write good songs, says Lyxzen. The new records much more diverse than the last one; theres a lot more going on. We dig through our record collections and flea markets for things that we can reuse in a new context. Instead of saying, Oh, it sounds like the Smiths, we cant use it, its like, All right! Thats great! Thats what we do with the politics as well -- we read books, and we steal ideas that are interesting to us.
Live, the (I)NC makes the idea of socialist revolution look pretty damn sexy. Stromberg, Johansson and Dahlberg remain in almost constant motion, while Lyxzen expertly executes the sort of mike-stand moves that could bring a lawsuit from the Joe Tex estate; Almgren serves as the bands John Entwistle, comporting herself with serene dignity while her comrades soak themselves with sweat. The (I)NCs matching outfits add extra visual sizzle, although Lyxzen fears the tailor-made suits they wore on their last U.S. tour might have fostered some misconceptions.
It was never our intention to be a Mod band, he says. Our clothes are more about representing the uniformity of the band; we are a collective, and we realize that the sum of us together is far superior to any of us alone. We try to have a new wardrobe for each tour. This summer, we played gigs in camouflage outfits; now we have kind of a 70s punk-rock look, black denim jackets with a lot of zippers and lightning bolts, he laughs.
Lyxzen believes the (I)NCs forthcoming American tour offers great potential for both intelligent discourse and heightened controversy. Our music definitely has a lot of purpose right now, he says. Obviously, [recent events] put new implications to what were saying, and people could easily misunderstand what were talking about. What we can do is bring a different perspective, and help people understand that there are reasons why the World Trade Center attacks happened. Maybe we need to re-examine the capitalist system that breeds the terrorist activity that goes on, instead of just trying to pin down one evil scapegoat.
Hopefully, all of this will bring an awakening, where people will see that we need something radically different fast, because this system is not going to be good enough. Look at whats happened in Seattle, Quebec, Prague and Genoa -- there is a new grassroots resistance movement growing across the world, and we definitely feel part of that movement of resistance.
The (International) Noise Conspiracy plays at the Roxy on Saturday, December 1, and Monday, December 3.
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