The word “International” is in parentheses, so the implication is that we should treat it as an aside or a qualifier of some sort, as in “The band creates conspiratorial noise, and by the way, they do it on an international stage”. I’ll buy that. Truth be told, however, I’d have placed “Noise” between the arcs instead, as in “The band’s here on its soapbox to rant about a worldwide human rights conspiracy; oh and by the way, it’s going to be loud”. That’s more like it.
Sweden’s International (Noise) Conspiracy (doesn’t that look better?), led by Dennis Lyxzén, has always been driven by what most Americans would consider radical politics—specifically, preaching anarchy, revolution, and anticapitalist propaganda from behind a punk-rock microphone. For Lyxzén, the message is of primary importance, the conveyance a personal style choice. Which is not to say that the style cannot be as powerful as the message from an impact standpoint.
Lyxzén was once the leader of the punk band Refused, whose confrontational battering-ram approach to hardcore punk rock gained most of its attention after the band had already broken up and members went their separate ways. The record Refused left us with as its swan song has gained stature as a modern punk classic. Ambitiously titled The Shape of Punk to Come (title lifted from Ornette Coleman’s groundbreaking record The Shape of Jazz to Come), it sought to advance punk musically and revitalize the genre’s original reputation as a medium for the expression of anti-everything ideals.
The (I)NC, it should be said before going much further, is not a punk band. When Lyxzén ditched the rest of Refused to start a new outfit in 1998, he left behind that band’s scream-life tendencies in favor of a more traditional rock and roll framework. A New Morning, Changing Weather doesn’t alter the contents of Refused’s manifesto one bit. (Lyxzén wrote it, after all.) The first line of The Shape of Punk to Come is, “I got a bone to pick with capitalism / And a few to break”. On New Morning, Dennis informs us that “Capitalism stole my virginity”. (Note to band: It will also sell a boatload of your records.) The most surprising thing about the (I)NC is how quickly it has become a great rock and roll band. Yes, it still has a distinct bratty snarl to its music that pays respect to a punk-rock past, but now the music recalls everything from Graham Parker-styled British pub rock (check out the horn-laden “Bigger Cages, Longer Chains”) to late ‘60s American garage rock like that of Seattle’s the Sonics (on the fittingly titled “A Northwest Passage”). The record’s finest moment is “Born into a Mess”, a bitter Saints-worthy ripper about being thrust into a life nobody would ever ask for willfully. One of the year’s best tracks.
The beauty of A New Morning is that you can opt to concentrate on the message, the music, or both. You don’t have to agree with the Marxist undertones of “New Empire Blues” to enjoy belting out apolitical choruses like “Hold tight, hold tight / I got a feeling that something ain’t right tonight”. If you do choose to read any of the many references Lyxzén includes in the liner notes, you’ll find a lot more than just a powerful rock band. You’ll find an intelligent collective that could probably hold its own in a weighty debate on the social injustices that plague much of the world in which we live. This record may be a sermon on a gospel you don’t believe in, but the fact that A New Morning, Changing Weather is one of the year’s most convincing rock and roll records will make you think twice before dismissing this group of (international) (noise) conspiracy theorists. Anarchy hasn’t sounded this good in a long time.