(International) Noise Conspiracy
Union Square Virgin Megastore
October 20, 2005
You can’t make this stuff up: the pretentiously-named Swedish anarcho-garage band (International) Noise Conspiracy totally rocking out on a rigged-up stage on the cafe side of the Union Square Virgin Megastore, yowling about revolution while people browse the 2-for-$15 CD bin a hundred feet away. And get this: in a beautiful accident, the red of their matching-uniform shirts perfectly matches the red in the Virgin-logo banner hanging right behind them. “I don’t really know why we’re doing this,” said (I)NC lead yowler Dennis Lyxzen, “but it’s probably a good thing.” Probably!
Lyxzen was once the lead yowler of the Swedish post-hardcore band Refused, who released a molten fireball of an album called The Shape of Punk to Come in 1998. The Shape of Punk to Come ran steamroller riffs and adrenal smash-the-state lyrics through a filter of berserk time-sig changes, warped structures, and gleaming production. It was a gorgeous mess, and it may have actually lived up to its title; people have certainly been ripping it off shamelessly for the past seven years. The Allmusic bio of Refused says they broke up shortly after recording the album because they were “unable to reconcile their anarchist leanings with a career in music,” which just makes this Virgin Megastore shit funnier and sadder.
When Lyxzen formed the (International) Noise Conspiracy later in 1998, plenty of people observed that he was now biting the Make-Up in the exact same way he’d been biting Nation of Ulysses in Refused. And yes, it was pretty bold: matching outfits, retro-glam haircuts, motionless hot girl (playing keyboard instead of bass). The new band also combined garage-rock white-soulman yelps with unlistenable sludge; the only noticeable changes from the Make-Up’s blueprint were the (I)NC’s cleaner production and their taller singer. On record, the (I)NC were pretty terrible, consistently forgetting to inject hooks into their workmanlike jerky stomp. But the one time I saw them a few years ago, they were thrilling onstage, flinging their bodies around and leaping over each other, Lyxzen climbing over balconies and doing airborne splits. They toured America’s indie-rock circuit hard for a few years ago and then signed with Reprise in the wake of the Hives-led Swedish-garage buzz-wave of 2002. Rick Rubin produced Armed Love, their major-label debut, which came out in Europe last year but got pushed back in America. Reprise finally released the album to zero fanfare earlier this month. And now the band has gone the route of virtually every rabble-rousing left-wing band that rides press hype into a major-label contract: they’re touring with the Bravery and playing the Virgin Megastore. Immortal Technique: meet your future.
To their credit, the band played hard for the duration of their 15-minute in-store set, still doing this same onstage careening, still executing perfect leaps and twirling their mic-chords and spinning tambourines on their fingers (Thunderbirds Are Now!: meet your future). Lyxzen didn’t much acknowledge the ridiculousness of the situation (he leapt up on a trash can at the set’s climax), and the store let the band play surprisingly loud. But you don’t get transcendent rock moments at six in the afternoon at enormous and overpriced downtown record stores, and any attempts to create them are terminally fated to end up ridiculous and embarrassing. (Also: the band has made themselves far less entertaining by replacing their gorgeous female keyboard player with an ugly dude.) I wonder how Lyxzen feels these days about reconciling his anarchist leanings with a career in music.