Raw exuberance matched with a burning desire to change the world is the hallmark of enlightened youth, often leading to embarrassing clothing buried in attics and repressed memories of auctioned-off idealism. But on occasion, a rare alignment of planets can turn such bright-eyed passion into a more permanent contribution -- like great music. Sweden's (International) Noise Conspiracy has done just that with the EP Bigger Cages, Longer Chains, a six-song followup to 2001's acclaimed full-length, New Morning, Changing Weather.
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With a lively, shiny brashness suited to both dance parties and anti-globalization rallies, the band's sound is loosely related to that of Scandinavian neo-punk of bands like the Hives; however, the Conspiracy's anti-capitalist bent will no doubt alarm fans of more mindless fare. Berating the forces of unchecked capitalism, singer Dennis Lyxzen, formerly of Refused, takes a lyrical approach that might evoke snickers from those who've already traded in their hearts for SUVs. He's so earnest, though, it's hard not to take him seriously on tracks like "A Textbook Example": "We still stutter when we're talking, haven't really learned a thing/Cause downsizing and profitizing will affect our way to think/I can't remember anything."
Besides, the meaning of the words is really just a subset of the music's power, and the Conspiracy's is relentless, with simple guitar lines and big drums throughout. Though often compared to late-'70s punk, the band's sound is too supple to fit that specific tag. Couched in the joyous enthusiasm of pop punk are some creative beats and odd rhythmic patterns evocative of ska or even early-'60s mod music. Boosted by video material -- including excerpts of a Noam Chomsky speech -- Cages is a six-song effort not easily contained.