The (International) Noise Conspiracy

Survival Sickness
(Burning Heart/Epitaph)

As concepts go, revolution -- the rejection of preset ideas in favor of something new -- and resuscitation -- consciously reusing old ideas -- are about as opposite as ideas can be. It's somewhat shocking, then, that the (International) Noise Conspiracy has never recognized the rather obvious distinction between the two.

Though a self-proclaimed sociocultural revolutionary outfit, the Noise Conspiracy relies upon worn-in ideas to define itself, rather than actually breaking new musical or intellectual ground. Considering it borrows its mod sound (from the Who), its penchant for viewing itself as a collective rather than a band in the traditional sense (from Crass), its song titles (from the Damned and Generation X) and its radical anti-establishment ideals (from everyone from Lenin to the Unabomber), the Conspiracy seems to have more to do with appropriation than anarchy.

Musically, Survival Sickness is a fairly nifty set of mod rock, thick with the atmosphere of the raucous '60s. Led by Denis Lyxzen, the Conspiracy takes on a much less progressive approach than Lyxzen's previous outfit, the Refused, which mixed hardcore and drum and bass with traditional hardcore. The result, however, is no less captivating. Mixing a buzzing, treble-heavy guitar, bass lines popping with hit-and-run violence and garagey Hammond organ melodies, the act finds a kinship with acts like the Sonics; "Enslavement Blues" features a particularly nagging guitar, and "The Subversive Sound," plays up the band's sense of rhythm.

For the most part, the band (or collective, or whatever) seems more concerned with upholding musical traditions than with shattering barriers, as in the guitar/bass/drum solos in "Impostor Costume," lifted almost verbatim from the Who's "My Generation," or the oddly spacey "Only Lovers Left Alive." Yet the amount of revolutionary pretense kicked up on Survival Sickness makes its conventionalism almost impossible to bear. With lyrics wholeheartedly devoted to pestering the status quo with threats of anarchy and rebellion (the album comes complete with sixteen pages of liner notes full of essays that read like a Xeroxed zine), the Conspiracy's themes mesh with its actual sound about as well as Focus on the Family would with Kid Rock.

It'd be easy to like the band for its sound -- a tight take on a style cruising the underground for more than thirty years -- or its politics. But the incongruous combination of the two makes Survival Sickness a little too disjointed for anyone already versed in rock or political history to take seriously. If the revolution truly begins at home, this group would be wise to spend a little more time there, honing its message and music into something a tad more cohesive.

 
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