Politics set the tone for The (International) Noise Conspiracy

"A cause for play"

By Tony Stasiek

Common perception is that most Swedish singers bouncing through the Heartland's music houses may be the least-likely individuals to attempt global political reform from their bus seats.

Meet Dennis Lyxzèn.

"I think it's f__king ridiculous that the retard you have as president is the most illiterate, retarded president around," says the vocalist for The (International) Noise Conspiracy. "It scares me to have a person who is so clueless be the most powerful man in the world."

See, under his seat, Lyxzèn's got books. Magazines. Pamphlets. Reading material.
Ain't just Newsweek and Spin, either - the liner notes of his band's latest CD, "A New Morning, A Changing Weather," list suggested readings by Noam Chomsky, Guy Debord and others for each track.

Post-Sept. 11 politics are a hot topic in The (International) Noise Conspiracy vehicle these days. As is, to a lesser extent, The Kristen Brooks Hope Center - the suicide-prevention foundation aided by the Plea for Peace/Take Action Tour that brings the band and four others to Western Washington University on Friday.

But the heavy stuff ain't just meant to pass time for Lyxzèn and Co. It's everything.

"We wouldn't be here if it wasn't," he says. "It's a priority to make every night into a cause worthy of playing."

Ideologies leaning left or giving mad ups to Marxism are what drew Lyxzèn and bandmates Sara Almgren, Ludvig Dahlberg, Inge Johansson and Lars Strömberg together in 1998. Over the course of three CDs, they've married such ideals to a sound that might be equal parts The Who, Elvis Costello and Black Flag. Some concepts might not translate without the aforementioned footnotes; some speak for themselves- "Hey I don't mind breaking Starbucks windows 'cause it's more fun / than waiting around for better days to come," Lyxzèn sings on "Dead Language of Love."

At their very root: a disdain for capitalism. Lyxzèn's previous band, Refused, hit the self-destruct button upon release of its hyped "The Shape of Punk to Come" CD, which spawned an improbable MTV single. Then late last year, The (International) Noise Conspiracy found itself on the channel with a video for the song "Capitalism Stole My Virginity."

Ironic? No, Lyxzèn says.

"First of all, I hate irony - the attitude of 'let's take nothing seriously, and then if someone calls me on my s__t, I'll just say we're only having fun,'" he says. "We are on MTV, and that's how it is. We all acknowledge that we're a band of many paradoxes."

Not the least of which is actually being a rock band.

In short, political rock owes its pants to early 20th-century Italian theorist Antonio Gramsci, who not only said that dominant political thought manifested itself through what would become pop-culture media but also that any attempt to subvert the system from within would become marginalized and impotent.

It's held up: Bob Dylan and the MC5 never overthrew anyone's government. And in the past 10 years, bands with big ideas either have become mainstream novelties (Rage Against the Machine) or gotten comfortable in the musical underground (The Mekons, The Coup).

Lyxzèn agrees: No way a few chords and some screaming are going to shake up the sociopolitical structure.

"(But) I do think music can change the world," he says. "From the '50s until now, music always has had a part as inspiration for a political movement - I still think it does.

"But in the '90s, we had nothing - Rage Against the Machine and nothing. Now we have anti-globalization and anti-capitalism things happening all over, and eventually, we'll have a musical movement to coincide with the struggle."

Start with the sound. All white-boy soul and Hammond organs, The (International) Noise Conspiracy's not only meant to be palatable to multiple generations of hipsters but also reclaim issue songs from the basement-punk and co-op-folk ghettos. The quintet also goes so far as to wear uniforms - a camouflage-mod concoction may be its most notable thus far.

And yeah, it's not meant to win over everyone.

"I wouldn't even like it if 500 people showed up and they all were into it," Lyxzèn says. "That would be freaky."

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