Punk? Not really. Mainstream Rock? Not really. Pop Rock? Not really. Alt Rock? Not really. Grunge? Not really. New-Wave Post-Core Dance-Rock Pop-Punk? Well The (International) Noise Conspiracy
[T(I)NC] sit precariously balanced between Punk, Rock, and anonymity, but are probably Garage Rock (which if you ask me is kind of new-wave Grunge). Before anything there are some important things to know about T(I)NC. They are a highly politically-motivated band from Sweden, led by former Refused
front-man Denis Lyxzén. The majority of T(I)NC songs are politically driven by the band's self-proclaimed far left-wing stance. T(I)NC are the
cohesive integration of music and politics: for Lyxzén, a mutually-dependent relationship.
was the first full-length album* from T(I)NC, released in 2000 after the band had signed for prominent Swedish record-label Burning Heart Records
. The sound has regularly been described as “subterranean”, and there are definite similarities with contemporaries The Strokes
and At The Drive-In
. T(I)NC are at times Rock at its flowing, nostalgic best and the opening track I Wanna Know About You
takes you back to '70s underground scene, albeit less brazen and more sophisticated. The Subversive Sound
continues the energetic, fast-paced start to the album, introducing us to the psychedelic keyboards prominent throughout. However for those familiar with Refused
and their Hardcore-Punk origins, it is painfully obvious that Lyxzén just wants to break-out into a fully-fledged scream and really take it to the listener, something T(I)NC doesn't allow him to do. The decorous Lyxzén shows his lyrical ability in his second language (I assume English is his second language after Swedish) and imparts the intended emotion and message, even if one gets the feeling he really would like to, but can't, smash something.
It is this “flowing” Rock which offers up the pre-eminent track from Survival Sickness
in the most recognized T(I)NC song Smash It Up
. The sinuous bass line and assertive drumming give this brooding track the edge over all others on the album, offering up a catchy chorus with evocative lyrics and the remarkable ability to incorporate feedback into a recording without completely defacing it.
The somewhat underwhelming (I've Got) Survival Sickness
shows why the majority of Rock bands just shouldn't overdo the slow, dark songs. It doesn't sound better than the fast-paced tracks, offers little - if anything - to the album, and simply just doesn't work. A weak middle-section of the album is supplemented by the bland Imposter Costume
, sans a hook or anything remarkable, which stands as a precursor to the inherently pointless Intermission
, a two and a half minute mellow, monotonous and mundane instrumental. The sickness ends there though, as one of the undeniable highlights of the album saves the second-half from undoubtedly fading into oblivion. Only Lovers Left Alive
was released on Punk-O-Rama Vol. 6
and the sharp, beguiling guitar work through this track complement a rare catchy T(I)NC chorus. Modern Indie-/Alt-Rock that will get your toe tapping, this is Survival Sickness
at its best.
Changing the tempo yet again, the psychedelically-influenced Do I Have To Spell It Out
is the perfect example of the T(I)NC's penchant for writing songs without definitive or authoritative choruses. Particularly noticeable on later albums, this is perhaps one of the band's foremost shortcomings. Yes they rock, yes they have a message, yes they are a tight band, yes they are diverse, but no, just not enough of their songs have that unforgettable hook that will have you singing along for weeks. You may, however, be singing along to the odd Lyxzén lyrical nugget or dancing to the poppy “Dance-Rock” tracks (have I just invented a genre?). Certainly not confined to a specific style or approach, T(I)NC slow down Survival Sickness
to great effect in Will It Ever Be Quiet?
. The keyboards come to the fore in this track and provide the lingering backdrop for the lethargic vocals on this distinctive track, taking influences from “Acid Jazz” and contemporary Pop.
Almost hiding in obscurity, the eleventh track, Enslavement Blues
, is another three minute instalment in the T(I)NC scrapbook of songs with the potential to be fantastic but lack that cracking chorus. Nonetheless this is some good T(I)NC Rock and a certain highlight of the album. I feel that perhaps this track would have been a better-suited ending to the album, as the unconvincing Ready Steady Go!
doesn't do the album justice.
I have been fairly harsh on Survival Sickness
, partially because it had the potential to be a truly memorable album. As it stands it is a solid offering from a band who at the time were finding their feet (left foot first, of course) in the (international) music scene, perhaps struggling between forming their own identity and being 'the band that Lyxzén started after Refused
'. Some solid rock with psychedelic, underground, R'n'B, and classic Rock influences, Survival Sickness
never really settles on greatness or obscurity but ultimately the band showed enough on this record for it to be a solid addition to any collection.
* Although The First Conspiracy
was released in 1999, the band claim Survival Sickness
to be their first album.