For most people, when you say Swedish rock band, they say The Hives—unless, of course, they say, “Hunh?” Even Newsweek, who proclaimed them the the biggest rock band out of Sweden likened that to being the strongest person in your house. And while their punkish, garage-rock sound is a lot of fun, it turns out it’s also pre-packaged. The band claims that their songs are written by an honorary “sixth Hive”, Randy Fitzsimmons. Another version I’ve heard is that songwriter Fitzsimmons put together a band to perform his music.
For the real, radical deal, the band you need is The [International] Noise Conspiracy. Amazon named Survival Sickness one of the Best of 2000. Here’s what their reviewer S. Duda so eloquently said about the band: “The trailblazing American feminist Emma Goldman loved to say, ‘If I can’t dance, I want no part in your revolution.’ Emma Goldman would love the [International] Noise Conspiracy. Combining radical anarchist politics and punk-mod-soul sounds, the [International] Noise Conspiracy’s debut, Survival Sickness, reads like a manifesto but moves like a triple-bill featuring the Small Faces, Booker T and the MGs, and Fugazi.”
I’ve seen the band a couple of times, most notably at the legendarily cramped Fireside Bowl [which I used to call the scummiest place I ever paid money to get into and now miss terribly since it no longer has rock shows on a regular basis]. In that tiny, shabby space, it was pretty much impossible to be more than 50 feet from the stage as the band ripped through its set, charging around the postage stamp stage and sweating through their white shirts and suit coats [what is it with Swedish rock bands and dressing for success?]. The music and energy were transcendent.
And much of it was radically political. Between songs on that night in 2000, the lead singer began talking about politics. When the audience grew restless and obviously disinterested, he warned that Bush was going to be our next president. Those of us paying attention scoffed at the notion that the American public would be so stupid as to let that happen. And here we are, eight years later, with the revolutionary anger of songs like Smash It Up in the excellent music video below sounding more relevant, more necessary than ever.
I’m happy to say this all translates perfectly to this CD. There’s no escaping the radical messages, but they’re delivered in smart lyrics with a darkly energetic punk rock sound that is more a call to arms than a tedious, strident harangue. And unlike many punk bands, they exhibit plenty of musicianship and variety to keep the music interesting from beginning to end.
So if you like the Hives [and even if you’ve never heard of them], give this Swedish garage-rock/punk band a listen. This is the real thing.