Listening to Dennis Lyxzen is confusing. There’s talk of Marxist doctrine, corrupt capitalists, the socio-political repercussions for Marxists using corrupt capitalists to spread the message of socialism to the punk proletariat. It’s like suddenly being caught at a U.N. meeting without a universal translator. Just nod and smile.
“You can’t escape the capitalist system. No matter where you are, you’re still tangled in a monetary system that doesn’t allow for true freedom,” Lyxzen says. “You have to get the best out of the system you can while trying to dismantle it from the inside, reconstructing a new society that lives outside of capitalist ideals.” OK, now show those teeth.
But this is Lyxzen’s life. As the leader of the Sweden-based International Noise Conspiracy, it’s his job to preach the gospel and convert the wicked. Sure, the band sounds like a fuzzed-out and drunk version of The Shrimp Shack Shooters playing some go-go beach bash; but take a listen to the lyrics and you’ll realize that’s a Speedo-clad Fidel Castro shimmying next to Frankie & Annette. The songs are dedicated to a socialist utopia where pop culture rules, material goods don’t exist and an ass-shaking beat can unify the masses. The liner notes to the band’s U.S. debut, Survival Sickness (Epitaph), would make Lenin proud: “The dominant commodity within contemporary modes of (re)production is the working body, sold to the managers of capital in order to survive.” Um, yeah.
The whole idea for the band came out of a quote from ’60s folk singer Phil Ochs: The ideal rock band “would be the perfect symbiosis of Elvis and Che Guevara.” Lyxzen’s old band, the anarchist hardcore outfit Refused, had just bum-rushed punk with its 1998 disc The Shape of Punk to Come, only to implode halfway through their U.S. tour. On the way back home, Lyxzen already had his next project in motion, gathering up a bunch of Swedish rock revolutionaries in hopes of making Ochs statement a reality. Within two weeks of hitting his homeland the quintet was writing serious amounts of material. “We’ve all played in other bands, but this just clicked,” Lyxzen says.
By early ’99 the group began releasing a series of 7-inches on various underground labels. (The 12 songs on those records would become The First Conspiracy, just released stateside this year.) But Lyxzen knew that if the group’s message was to truly be effective, the Conspiracy would have to go the subversive route, becoming socialist spies hell-bent on sabotaging the system from the inside. In other words: record deal. “If you’re in a band and want to say something to the people, someone has to pay for the gas,” Lyxzen says. The band signed with punk powerhouse Epitaph last year and released Soul Survivor.
The disc instantly became a critical fave and a cult hit. Blame it on the band’s blending of trashy ’60s garage rock & soul with ’70s punk ideals. While Lyxzen coos and moans about life, liberty and the pursuit of the Marxist manifesto, the rest of the band is tossing out a gob of grooves guaranteed to get your butt moving. The keyboards swirl and spin like a hippie girl at a Jerry jam. The guitars are dirtier than a Clinton sex-capade. The whole thing comes off like James Brown after a week of pills and propaganda in Stalingrad—“Aoohha, I’m a sex machine, comrade.” Songs like “Do I Have to Spell It Out?” and “Enslavement Blues” are sloppier and more seductive than anything Jon Spencer has dreamed up. “Will It Ever Be Quiet” slides up next to you, blows into your ear and then hijacks your wallet to finance the cause. Be happy it was Limp Bizkit playing “Break Stuff” at Woodstock a couple years back rather than the Conspiracy bashing through “Smash It Up”; there would have been courthouses burning, not just soundstages.
But while the band can make keysters move like a Bond martini—shaken, not stirred—the band’s sound has also gotten the group tagged, in Lyxzen’s eyes inappropriately, as retro revolutionaries. He says the band is just freely sampling from the past in hopes of making a point in the present.
“A lot of bands and a lot of people are afraid to admit that there are only X amount of chords and X amount of notes, so you have to steal,” Lyxzen says. “For us originality is overrated. We want to play music people can be inspired by, not live by some bourgeoisie ideal of what’s original and interesting. We just want something that will get the message right to the people.”
That’s exactly what the group has been doing for the last few weeks, squeezing inside a van and spreading the message wherever they can. (“We just got done with the sketchier parts of the country—Texas, basically,” Lyxzen says.) And while the gigs have been going well, Lyxzen has to admit that people don’t always understand what’s being thrown in their faces.
“When we play a show, we fuse politics and passion, and that makes it hard to tell if the message is getting through,” Lyxzen says. “Some people get so excited they want to come up to us and talk politics; others just say, ‘You fucking rock.’ Either way, it’s hard to know if people take this stuff home with them and really understand it or if they just buy the record and rock out. I guess in the end it doesn’t really matter, as long as people are being inspired by the music. ”
The International Noise Conspiracy opens for Rocket From the Crypt at DV8, 115 S. West Temple (539-8400), Wednesday April 25, 8 p.m.