For a man who claims that capitalism stole his virginity, Dennis Lyxzén laughs a lot. Even battling a cold -- not to mention corporate hegemony, the commodification of art, consumerism and Wal-Mart's everyday low prices -- the front man of Swedish Marxist mods the (International) Noise Conspiracy is remarkably amicable. And yet, to borrow a line from fellow hardcore politicos C.O.C., if the system had one neck, Lyxzén would gladly break it.
Despite his propensity for lining his band's album sleeves with inflammatory quotes from decidedly non-footloose types like Milan Kundera and Vladimir Mayakovski, and an equally strong tendency to speak at length about how the family unit is merely a cultural construction to maintain a steady labor force, Lyxzén and his bandmates would rather dance than demonstrate. They're more inclined to shake their asses than their fists and to join the dearly departed Bikini Kill in screaming, "I believe in the radical possibilities of pleasure, baby. I do! I do! I do!"
"It's always been a part of the plan for this band to show people that politics can be put in another perspective," Lyxzén says. "So many bands are just so dystopian. They talk about politics, but you don't get excited about politics. We just try to flip that and show people that we're human beings that like to have a good time."
The (International) Noise Conspiracy with Rival Schools and the Hives
Mary Jane's, 4216 Washington Avenue
Sunday, November 25; 713-869-JANE
But in most leftist political circles, having a good time is as taboo as high-fiving Pat Robertson. By being as wooden as Che Guevara's casket, bands like Rage Against the Machine, Consolidated and Godspeed You Black Emperor! have inadvertently contributed to the marginalization of the very activism they espouse. In their stern, hectoring allegiance, these commissarlike groups often make audiences feel as if they have to choose between being militant and engaging in any other aspect of the human experience -- you know, like trying to get laid -- as if enjoying oneself diverts a person from his political end.
It's this cold rigidity of the revolutionary that the Noise Conspiracy works to counter by being damn near as preoccupied with spreading legs as with socialist palaver. And as for the stereotypical fatalism of the grim insurgent, well, the Noise Conspiracy leaves that to Jello Biafra and Chicago Cubs fans.
"It's so obvious to point out the fact that the world is shit, the system sucks. We all know this, more or less," Lyxzén says. "So we wanted to be like, 'Well, maybe the world does suck, but look at all the great things that are happening: all the fucking fantastic people, the great movements, and acts of defiance happening everywhere.' Instead of talking about oppression, we try to talk about resistance."
Of course, the resistance comes with a wink. In the liner notes of its sophomore effort, 2000's superb Survival Sickness, the Noise Conspiracy urges people to engage in such friendly acts of subversion as playing acoustic versions of songs by the Angry Samoans in posh cafes; bathing in public fountains; going to Burger King at lunch with a group of friends, ordering water and taking up every available seat; and yes, spending more time naked.
This intermingling of liberation with the libido recalls the halcyon days of protest music in the '60s. It's this era that the Noise Conspiracy mines liberally, with bell-bottomed guerrilla soul that approximates the MC5's Detroit rumble leavened with James Brown's south Georgia funk. With serrated organ doing the bunny-hop all over a rhythmic hip-thrust, the Noise Conspiracy is the kind of band that leaves audiences needing a cigarette.
The Noise Conspiracy's ideology is also a throwback to the '60s. Four decades ago, politically provocative music wasn't nearly as detached from our everyday existence as it is today. Now, politically minded musicians tend to speak in broad terms about bulls on parade or red flags and bags. But every individual is the brick and mortar from which any social structure is built, so there's no use trying to critique society without first developing an understanding of ourselves. This is why, in years past, the personal was celebrated with the same enthusiasm as the political -- why Bob Dylan danced with those rainy-day women before fleeing Maggie's farm.
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It's this experiential, lived-in nature of '60s protest music that the Noise Conspiracy attempts to revitalize. This is especially evident on the band's third album, the recently released A New Morning, Changing Weather, which delves into sexual politics in an attempt to humanize activism.
"What we tried to do on this record a bit more than on the last one is take the culture, the power structures and the economic systems down to the level of the individual," Lyxzén says. "How is our sexuality affected by the culture we live in? We wanted to push the subject to the individual."
In bringing politics down to intimate, interpersonal relationships, the Noise Conspiracy provides a tangible touchstone to resistance. This is essential for any kind of meaningful political change; there's nothing more quixotic than tilting at oppressive windmills like The Man or the powers that be. Who really knows what these designations even signify? And what possible good could it do to revolt against indistinct authorities? Revolution isn't about smashing states as much as it is about altering oneself, because the world changes only one soul at a time.
"We usually say that if Bob Dylan couldn't change the world, there's no way we can," Lyxzén says. "As a revolutionary force, [music] is kind of outdated, but I think as an inspiration it's still valid. It's still valid to play music and talk about political ideas and inspire people about them. From the '60s to the '80s there was always a musical movement to coincide with the big political movements. In the '60s you had the hippie movement. In the '80s in England you had a great musical/political scene. Now, in the year 2001, there's a really big, growing political scene, but there's not a big musical scene to coincide with that, which I think is really sad. The future is there; it's up to us to reach out and grab it and do something about it. You have to hope. You have to allow yourself to be a naive, romantic dreamer from time to time, or else you'll easily fall into the exploited, nihilistic punk behavior. That's just not good for you."