The International Noise Conspiracy (INC) have a song about you—yeah, you, the apartment-dwelling wage slave who picks up the Weekly on the way to grab some coffee. It's about how you're bored. Lonely. Watching a lot of TV. Stuck in some stupid job with an asshole boss. Compiling reams of monthly bills. Maybe drinking too much. Maybe settling for too little. Maybe wondering if there's anything more to life. And that's what the INC, possibly the most subversive band since the Sex Pistols, is trying to tell you—that there fucking well is.
Sweden's INC are a political band, but theirs are the politics of everyday life (though given the chance, they'd certainly free Tibet), and they think everyday life would be a lot better if people really started living it instead of just enduring it. And they think the best way to do that is to get people to realize how the oh-so-boring politics of capitalism and globalization make up that machine we're supposed to be raging against, and the best way to do that is through inspired communication. And they happen to communicate through the only language more international than love or money: rock & roll. That's their secret weapon: a revolution you can dance to.
“When you talk about politics, people get a vision of old, tired men with gray hair and black ties,” says guitarist Lars Strmberg. “That's boring, and people don't wanna deal with it. We want to turn politics into something attractive—we want it to be something fun and sexy instead. Running your own life should be intriguing to people.”
When singer Dennis Lyxzen formed the INC in Sweden in 1998, the idea was to drop the avant-hardcore rage of punk (like that of Refused, Lyxzen's old outfit) in favor of something subtler, more sophisticated and ultimately more powerful. They'd be a smart bomb instead of a chain saw, a band to put the power chords to protest-balladeer Phil Ochs' famous contention that the most perfect band ever would be an unholy union of Elvis Presley (hooks, looks and style) and Che Guevara (guts, substance and bile). And that's pretty much what INC ended up with.
They're an amped-up, proudly retro-modern version of the unkempt, mop-top mod bands of the early '60s (think the Kinks or the Sonics) with Lyxzen channeling a bunch of unkempt, mop-top mod theorists and revolutionaries when he sings (think Debord, Marx, or maybe Gramsci; and if you'd like to learn more, consult your local library). It sounds like your grandpa's rock & roll, but it reads like an underground Situationist manifesto. Spin their latest full-length, Survival Sickness, and you might find yourself starting to think differently—and so might your grandpa.
“We don't want to restrict the ideas we have to certain little groups of people,” says Strmberg. “Of course, we want DIY punk kids to get into the ideas, but I think it's equally important that my parents get into those ideas—ordinary people who just listen to the radio, not just people who buy underground seven-inches. We want to be able to play in front of everyone.”
And they damn well do. This is a band that takes accessibility to the extreme, even managing a barely legal 1999 tour of China (as one of the first Western rock bands to tour there). Permits? They didn't need no permits —they just packed up their guitars and played innocent whenever the soldiers approached them. And they got away with it. They've snagged far more criticism from progressive peacenik types for signing to monster capitalist label Burning Heart (a subsidiary of Godzilla imprint Epitaph) and getting videos on MTV than they ever did from the Communist Chinese. It's the same bleak question that supposedly made Debord shoot himself: How can you fight against a system that commodifies everything when you've become a commodity within that system?
“I think it's impossible to work outside capitalism, unless you want to become the Unabomber,” says Strmberg. “So it's the classic use-the-master's-tools-to-destroy-the-master's-house [scheme]. We totally realize we're a commercial product—but as they use us to sell records and make money, we try to use them back and get a message across.”
They've got it all planned out, says Strmberg: hide the revolution under good ol' rock & roll, and once you're moving the units and the people are doing the bourgeois boogie, sucker punch 'em.
“What we hope to do is use the element of surprise. Lots of people come to the shows who only want to shake their booties, and we expect that. If we didn't like people dancing, we wouldn't play in a band,” he says. “But then between songs, we're screaming, 'Revolution now!' in peoples' ears.”
He laughs and says, “Hopefully, that'll inspire some curiosity.”
Because that's the mantra of the INC: inspiration is revolution. It's not about going to this protest or signing this petition or even tossing this Molotov cocktail at that capitalist institution (not that we're discouraging the tossing of Molotov cocktails, mind you). It's about rethinking the way we think about our lives, and it's about the shocking idea that you—yeah, you, the wage slave—not only deserve something better but also have the creative power to do it yourself. So stop wasting your life: change something. And shake your bootie while you're at it.
“We want things that spell freedom instead of boredom,” says Strmberg. “We want people to realize they run their own lives for themselves. We've all been brought up believing that we need leaders, we need bosses, we need people to tell us the way it is. But everyone can be an artist—everyone can be a hero.”
The International Noise Conspiracy perform with Thrice, Midtown and Hot Rod Circuit at Chain Reaction, 1652 W. Lincoln Ave., Anaheim, (714) 635-6067; www.allages.com. Sat., 7:30 p.m. $10. All ages.