THE (INTERNATIONAL) NOISE CONSPIRACY, RIVAL SCHOOLS, HIVES, ONE TIME ANGEL
Graceland, 381-3084, $10 6 p.m. Fri., Dec. 7
STRIDENT SOCIALIST though he is—and they don't come much more strident than this—(International) Noise Conspiracy guitarist Lars Str�rg wants to agree with George W. these days. Well, sort of.
Bush and his anti-terrorism coalition aim to eradicate the evil from the face of the earth, Str�rg, 23, says from Washington, D.C.'s Black Cat punk club. "I can only wish it was that easy. If it was just a matter of good vs. evil, I definitely know what side I'd be on." The problem, he says, with Bush's goal is that it ignores the tangles of geopolitics.
"I want to take this analysis further. I wanna be the one looking into the structure that makes people desperate enough to fly planes into buildings and kill themselves, the structures that make a billion people hate Western civilization.
Str�rg likes things complicated. Take his band, which he co-founded three years ago with Refused singer Dennis Lyxz鮮 The (International) Noise Conspiracy put a monkey wrench in attempts to lump them with either traditional rock 'n' rollers or punk politicos.
T(I)NC probably hate the term "bottom line." Tough. Lemme give you the bottom line on "New Empire Blues," from their recently released second album, A New Morning, Changing Weather: This song swings. Every thump in its Bo Diddley beat calls out for the shake of an ass cheek, and when Lyxz鮠oddly blares his "yeah" with a "ch" beginning, you wanna holler "chyeah-heah!" right along with him.
You'd never know this is a band of leftists with the hammer and sickle so far up their collective butt that it's a wonder they can walk, much less dance. On A New Morning, Changing Weather, the Swedish five-piece splice their retro-mod grooves with Fugazi fury and a flair for 21st-century beat making. T(I)NC's clear victory lies in sidestepping the academic stiffness that usually results when groups try to put square-peg Chomsky-fied lyrics into the round hole of rock.
"We all come from the background of playing in those stiff, hardly accessible punk bands," Str�rg says. "We want to play something that both punk kids and my parents could like at the same time. We want to take the politics we have been talking about and the punk do-it-yourself underground movement and bring them up to the mainstream way of presenting them."
T(I)NC'S STRATEGY is twofold. First, they root their lyrics (credited, duh, to the entire band) in emotion rather intellect. Yeah, there are a few clunkers. "Situations symptomatic/Define the objectified and celebrate the phallic," Lyxz鮠says in the anti-gender rules "Breakout 2001," one of the finest hailstorms of guitar feedback—thanks to Sara Almgren and Str�rg—in a rock tune since Sonic Youth's "100%." More typical is the song's chorus: "Yeah, baby, yeah! We're gonna break out!" It's plain, it's gutbucket. That was good enough for "Louie, Louie." Why shouldn't they use it to rally the masses against the Man?
Second, they crank out boiling-over, rock 'n' roll dance music. On "Bigger Cages, Longer Chains"—whose commands to "Shut it up!," "Hold me down!," and "Set it off!" explode with impatience over stale plans for revolution—drummer Ludwig Dahlberg kicks a rhythm that's intricate but still speaks to the feet. The love-as- resistance opener, "A Northwest Passage," careens like a car on two wheels, barely hugging the mountainside and careless about the precipice outside the window.
The Conspiracy folk have played twice in Seattle since the WTO protests, and they clearly consider themselves fellow travelers with frontline activists agitating against globalization. In fact, they recorded A New Morning, Changing Weather during breaks from demonstrating last June in G�org, Sweden, during trade talks among European Union members.
"We directly took a lot of that energy back into the studio," Str�rg says. "We want to be on the streets. We want to be where the protests are going on. We want to take inspiration from that, and try to present that inspiration and pass it on to people who weren't there; to people who aren't really ever exposed to that kind of emotion at a riot, at a protest, at a huge mass demonstration."
And unlike plenty of political punk bands, The (International) Noise Conspiracy maintains a firm grip on hope. Str�rg says he sees it in the 100,000 protesters who hit the streets during July's G8 summit in Genoa, Italy. But there's just as much hope on the album. Intended or not, that's what happens when you shout lyrics that quote Madonna ("Strike a pose"), James Brown ("Please, please, please!"), and Bobby "Blue" Bland ("Turn on your love light"). And that beats quoting Karl Marx any day.