Forgotten series: The International Noise Conspiracy – Armed Love (2005)

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by Mark Saleski

What do Neil Diamond, System of a Down, the Beastie Boys and The Dixie Chicks have in common? Rick Rubin.

Yes, that bearded and mysterious, spiritual, meditating, record producer-type guy. I don’t know what kind of audio voodoo he’s able to conjure but, let’s face it, his work speaks for itself. From the Beastie Boys to Run D.M.C to Rage Against The Machine to Johnny Cash … a diverse roster of artists, all made to shine through Rubin’s magic. Unlike a producer like, say, Jeff Lynne, who seems to impart his unique aural stamp on things, Rubin is able to hear the essence of the performer and that is brought out front.

Does this apply to the International Noise Conspiracy? Though I have no reason to doubt it, my answer is: I don’t know. See, I’d never heard this band up until Armed Love appeared. But I’m willing to take a little leap of faith here based on Rubin’s stellar track record.

The raw and chunky opening riff of “Black Mask” will give you a good idea of where these guys were headed. Snarling, hard-edged guitar, aggressive drumming and solid, hyperactive bass. Vocalist Dennis Lyxzen’s slightly slurry delivery brings to mind Jagger, if Jagger was from Sweden. Looking for a label for all of this is, well … with elements of good old 70’s hard rock, early & ‘modern’ punk and even a bit of alternative rock (gees, I hate that term), it’s not easy. How about “RockThat’llMakeYouTurnUpYourCarStereoTooLoud.” Hey, that’s what happened to me!

There are a few textural factors that make Armed Love such a kick to listen to. First is the use of undeniably catchy rhythms. From the slamming and relentless opening of “Black Mask” to the driving bassline of “Let’s Make History” to the amped up “Iko Iko” rhythm of the title track to the jumpy octaves of “A Small Demand” to the second-line-on-too-much-caffeine drumming on “This Side Of Heaven” … it’s the kind of stuff that makes a person want to be bobbin’ the head, pounding the wheel and playing air drums.

The second “sound gem” here is the heavy use of organ. Benmont Tench (Tom Petty) and the legendary Billy Preston weave their magic all over the place, bringing in a sort of classic Geils/Elvis Costello & the Attractions/Joe Jackson vibe. The latter reference stands out in particular when bassist Inge Johansson is given space to really instigate. Definitely shades of Graham Maby.

A few years go, ‘modern rock’ really was making me feel old. I should have had a little faith or at least remembered that these things run in cycles. I should have also remembered that there are some folks out there with ‘big ears.’ Folks who know (and are still out to prove) that rock isn’t dead.

But … Neil Diamond??!

Mark Saleski

Mark Saleski

Mark Saleski is a writer and music obsessive based out of the woods of central New Hampshire. A past contributor to Jazz.com, Blogcritics.org and Salon, he originated several of our weekly features including the Friday Morning Listen, (Cross the) Heartland, WTF! Wednesday, and Sparks Fly on E Street. Follow him on Twitter: @msaleski. Contact Something Else! at reviews@somethingelsereviews.com.
Mark Saleski
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