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[whitespace] Swedes, Tight Pants And Revolution

Marxist Swedish band International Noise Conspiracy brings 'Smash It Up' message to masses at Vets Hall

By David Espinoza

THOUGH IT MIGHT BE premature to say we're headed for a Swedish invasion, Santa Cruzers got a fine dose of "fists in the air with fashion" rock & roll collective the International Noise Conspiracy at the Santa Cruz Vets Hall basement last Tuesday, (Nov. 14). Just when it seemed hip-hop would be the sole voice of post-Seattle counterculture, rock & roll is making a comeback as a politically subversive medium.

From the moment the band stormed the stage, addressing the audience as comrades and sisters, with red banners reading "Live Without Dead Time" and "Boredom Is Always Counterrevolutionary," hanging in the background, you knew this was going to be a band with something important to say. This being the group's first excursion to the U.S., the quintet brought out an impressively decent-sized crowd for a Tuesday night--possibly a result of its latest album, Survival Sickness (Epitaph Records) or the good name of Eddie Numbskull promoting the show.

Either way, the band met and exceeded all expectations as it launched into an adrenaline-pumped set that eventually was cut short due to sound system difficulties (band members jokingly blamed it on the capitalists). Dressed to kill, in tight, brown pin-striped suits and black ties and sporting dyed-black Mod hairdos, the International Noise Conspiracy posed, bounced and staggered across the floor-level stage.

At times, it seemed the band was a 21st-century reincarnation of the Jam or the Who (sure Pete and crew are still around, but they may as well not be). With limitless energy, lead singer Dennis Lyxzen worked the floor from every direction, sometimes falling to his knees a la James Brown, other times sling-shooting the mic stand out at the audience before yanking it back by the cord. In between songs, Lyxzen commentated on the amount of corporate influence in this year's U.S. election, pointing out that if less than half of the country votes, and that number is divided by two, then 25 percent of the population is deciding who gets to be president. But this is Santa Cruz, bastion of radical activism, and when the spry Lyxzen asked which way Santa Cruzans vote, "Democrat or Republican?" the crowd yelled back in unison, "Green!"

Similar to bands like the Murder City Devils and At the Drive-In, INC is another bunch of musicians making rock & roll a worthwhile endeavor again. These bands all share a common attribute, in that their fiery post-punk, post-grunge, post-indie rock is beyond mainstream appeal--that is to say, they have absolutely no hit-song potential, at least on noncollege radio stations. But that doesn't matter; the International Noise Conspiracy, like the aforementioned bands, stands to become a cult fave, marking a rebirth of a strong independent rock & roll community. And while other underground acts have rejected flamboyance in the past, these bands aren't afraid to be 21st-century rock stars on stage, with Afro haircuts, thick black glasses and '60s British-Invasion era organs--fashionwise, anything goes as long as the GAP isn't hocking it.

Though the International Noise Conspiracy's '60s-era garage sound (without the psychedelic guitar solos) is certainly not new, its element of subversive political urgency has been absent from rock & roll for too long. Without flinching, Lyxzen declares, "I wanna smash it up, for the workers, who spend hours into nothing" on a song called "The Creative Urge to Destroy Bourgeois Culture" or simply "Smash It Up." Perhaps to preempt the skepticism that might follow a band that promotes Marxism and yet dresses so well, Lyxzen offers, "We're the new romantics because we believe in the revolution, we're naive and crazy--of course, the only thing crazier would be to not believe."

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From the November 22-29, 2000 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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