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(International) Noise Conspiracy's A New Morning, Changing Weather
By Neal Shaffer

It is a great deal more difficult to talk politics now than it was September 10. Tragedy tends to put things in a perspective which, though it may have been sought, was not before possible. As a result, one’s political agenda starts to seem...inappropriate. This is not, of course, the case. If anything, now is the time for those with a dissenting agenda to be respectful and thoughtful, but as alert as ever to provide checks and balances which, in the coming months, will be as important as they have ever been. It is fitting, then, that the (International) Noise Conspiracy release their second full-length album, A New Morning, Changing Weather, on October 23.

Since forming in Sweden in 1998 of parts from Refused, the Doughnuts, Saidiwas and others, the (I)NC has crafted a resume that has them poised to make the elusive leap from cult status to something larger. The title track from their debut, Survival Sickness, received significant MTV exposure. They’ve toured across Europe, Asia and the U.S. in support of folks such as J Mascis, At the Drive-In and Rocket From the Crypt. Their new album is a substantial musical leap forward from previous efforts—a pleasant blend of garage, rockabilly, punk and R&B that is reminiscent domestically of the Make-Up or the Delta 72. The (I)NC is, however, first and foremost a political entity, and so like many underground bands before them, they face a dilemma. To wit: how to preach past the converted and still maintain integrity of purpose. Pop music needs, at all times, at least one such band. With the proliferation of rock acts whose biggest concern is their own self-loathing, the (I)NC has a void to fill.

The band was born out of an idea Phil Ochs once advanced that the ultimate rock band would be "the perfect symbiosis of Elvis and Che Guevara." For their own purposes, the (I)NC have updated it to the perfect symbiosis of the Who and Guy DeBord, but the point remains the same. Music is the medium most suited to the delivery of a message, political or otherwise, and pop music in particular is as vast a stage as could be desired. Since the days of Minor Threat, the punk community has employed this dynamic to dramatic, if muted, effect—there can be no doubt that pop today owes a significant debt to punk, but something has been lost. The aggression and the stance have been adopted, while the politics have been left behind. Yet there is still a hunger for thought mixed with rhythm.

"We wanted to do something that was political to start with, that was focused, instead of growing into that...we come from sort of a punk/hardcore scene, and I guess we find most of our kindred spirits there, but a lot of them consider us sellouts because we try to make music that will appeal to a wider crowd of people."

—Lars (no last name given), guitarist

This is the crux of what makes the (I)NC unique—this willingness to part with certain traditional punk ethos and use tools such as MTV, radio and major label distribution. The debate as to whether it can work will never be settled, but, in trying it, the (I)NC cease to be just a punk band with a message and become more interesting. They should be considered with bands like Gang of Four and the Clash: their politics define them, but at no point does the music suffer. Accordingly, A New Morning, Changing Weather is their Entertainment, their Combat Rock. It is a pop record that, in scope and intensity, stands above.

"As radical as we wanna be...we’re as real as we’re gonna get."

—from "Last Century Promise"

Perhaps what will separate them in the end from a hundred other underground bands that made the leap and ended up buckling under the pressure is the fact that they are not a take-it-or-leave-it proposition. Much of their message is touched by cynicism and infused with enough humor to suggest that the rhythm may indeed be just as important as the message.

Lars again: "If people just come to our shows just to shake their booties, that’s cool because we play music to entertain people...I definitely think it’s worth it because if you only reach a few people then that’s more than you would have reached if you had not done it."