Razor & Tie

When a punk decides to move in a “new direction”, the results are often dreary. For every Copper Blue, there are six Standing in the Spotlights and a couple of Earthquake Weathers (look those up, then weep).

So I’m chuffed to admit that before I gave Dennis Lyxzén’s new band a listen, I wasn’t exactly brimming with confidence. First of all, there’s that name. It’s to be pronounced “invasion”, which is not only pretentious but conjures unfortunate memories of Vinnie Vincent; besides, I keep wanting to pronounce it “Invision”, which might even be a better moniker. It turns out I had nothing to worry about. INVSN is simply the latest version of The Lost Patrol, Lyxzén’s fiercely socialist post-punk Swedish powerhouse, formed after the demise of his awesome hardcore band Refused and the sonically smoother (International) Noise Conspiracy.

Lyxzén is a talent to be reckoned with, even when he dips into the emo pool, as he did on Lost Patrol’s massively underrated Songs About Running Away. Besides, everyone needs to vent; there’s something endearing about rabble-rousers admitting that yeah, capitalism sucks, but getting your heart broken is much worse–and often more interesting. So I wasn’t sure what we were getting this time around: emotional introspection, political fury, or something in between.

To be honest, I’m still not sure. But, tell you what–when the music is this spirited, this melodic, this passionate, and this adventurous, they could be singing about model trains and I’d still be hooked. Turns out, INVSN’s self-titled album is full of anthemic power-pop in the truest sense of the term; it’s undeniably powerful and genuinely poppy, and so sonically delightful you won’t even be trying to decipher anything until your third listen. The band is tight, with a charmingly old-school new wave influence–songs like “The Promise” and “Our Blood” would have fit right in on your mid-80s college-rock mixtape between “The Killing Moon” and whatever Julian Cope song was in your head that day. But the big beats and reverb-drenched guitar leads aren’t gimmicks–they’re actually great vehicles for the smart melodies and surprisingly sweet vocals, provided by Lyxzén and not-so-secret weapon Sara Almgren, herself a veteran of The (I)NC. And the bursts of noise and bits of electronica provided by the band give INVSN a punchy edge that keeps us from becoming too comfortable.

But where are they leading us with all this passion and beautiful noise? Titles like “God Has Left Us Stranded” and “Hate” hint that Lyxzén is back to his revolutionary ways, and with lyrics like “a storm is coming / a storm is coming for you” and “I can’t be the only one who’s tired / of hearing nothing at all”, the strong opener “#61” certainly feels like a socio-political rant. But with a few exceptions, INVXN never gets too specific; we have to work out the message on our own. And most of these tracks could just as easily be directed inward.

Take the assured “Down in the Shadows”, which blends industrial grunge with a bluesy rant (“They’re never gonna give you praise / when you’re crawling on your knees”) that could be directed at any boss–religious, political, personal. Or the ferocious “Our Blood”–a gem among gems–which deftly blends a chugging bass and echoing new wave guitar with pounding drums and some stunning primal screaming. “The Promise” is yet another winner, a dark look at resignation and hypocrisy that works just as well as a rant against a lover as a rage against the machine. And “It’s All Coming Back” has everything a single needs: strong percussion not too far removed from the Stone Roses, a streamlined melody, and a soaring chorus you’ll be singing for days.

I’m sure I’m missing a few points here. But oddly, the more direct songs–the lighter, self-doubting “Distorted Heartbeat” and the we-have-messed-up-everything rallying cry “God Has Left Us Stranded”–are the least intriguing (“God” is also a bit lyrically awkward and serves the only reminder that English is not the band’s first language). But again, when the music is this driving, this throwbacky, and this fun, who cares what INVSN is getting at? Whatever he chooses to call it, here’s hoping Lyxzén sticks with this lineup for a long time. No matter what he’s got to say, you’ll wanna listen.

RATING 8 / 10