Say you get an email from Rick Rubin and he wants to produce your next album. It’d be downright idiotic to decline, right? The grandfather of rap metal and producer of such blockbusters as Licensed to Ill and Blood Sugar Sex Magik guarantees a wider profile. Who cares if he’s also responsible for Weezer’s latest shitshow and both Audioslave records? What does it matter that his production style is predicated on a “more is more” ethos and that he actually held a funeral for the word “def”? Well if the band that got the email is a “revolutionary, anti-capitalist, Communist rock band” known for its incendiary and rough-hewn garage soul, then it definitely matters.
And on the verge of breaking up, the proposition was still too tempting to resist for the band in question, the (International) Noise Conspiracy. Rather than leave us to savor the intensity of Survial Sickness (or the even the inferior A New Morning, Changing Weather), they’ve provided an updated version that’s more polished and sickeningly tame. The (International) Noise Conspiracy chose to join the Warner family and smother their old fires with the Zengali guidance of, again, the grandfather of rap metal.
I dwell on the oh-so-irresistible press point of Rubin because it is wonderfully emblematic of Armed Love‘s failure. This new album, which is more than a year forgotten in Sweden, is an unjustifiable creative disappointment for commie soul punks. The politics are toned down, the songwriting is dumbed-down, and T(I)NC’s attack has been candied over. Sounding like K.I.S.S in the sadder moments and a Canadian bar band in between, the conspiracy has been foiled. Outside of “Let’s Make History” and “Communist Moon”, nothing here can compete with the band’s other work. With the deft Jari Halpannen replaced as producer, the considerable disappointment is only fettered by the opportunity to place all the blame on Rick Rubin.
One of the more important vocalists of the last decade, former Refused controller Dennis Lyxzèn comes off flatfooted throughout the album. The desperation and the cracks in his voice have been filled in with vanilla middling and loverly affectation. It’s almost pathetic how lame his (way too audible) vocals sound throughout the album. Now I’m guessing the Rube thought it was a great idea to push Lyxzèn’s vocals way to the front. But with either his tongue in his cheek or his head up his ass, the singing comes off contrived and halfhearted. And besides, do you really want people to notice a lyric like, “We’re going to move like a movement, because that’s what we’re going to be, yeah?” That kind of saccharine rebelliousness epitomizes the decay of the Conspiracy’s rougher charms.
Really though, I shouldn’t be surprised that the band’s lost the scathing tenacity of their early work. It has happened to nearly every band on the planet. Compromise is that monster of inevitability. It swallows the urgency and abandon of any rock ‘n’ roll group that doesn’t break up in time. And it really is as simple as time. Time passes and bands go soft. For some it takes 20 years, for others, two albums. It’s as absurd as it is depressing to think that’s all it takes; time. Considering today’s piercing political conditions, what else can explain how a band as politically committed as the (International) Noise Conspiracy would make such an irrelevant, nowhere album in 2005.