I’m a bit confused. I open my stereo, stare at the CD, think for a moment, and shut it again. Then I scrounge through the massive amount of crap on my desk for the album cover. While looking for this, I come across the promotional picture of the (International) Noise Conspiracy. Only one of them does not have some altered version of the shaggy, just-rolled-out-of-bed hair. They are all, though, decked out in leather jackets with a tiny lightening bolt stitched in the side, white belts holding up tight black jeans, and the classic white-tipped “rocker” sneakers.
The CD case only increases my confusion. The music vibrating in my ears is, in fact, the Conspiracy’s newest EP release, Bigger Cages, Longer Chains.” But I could have sworn it was a compilation of the Strokes, the White Stripes and any of the other bands that precede their name with the article “the” that have laid their parasitic eggs on the rock world recently.
That’s not to say that the album’s songs don’t showcase any talent. Singer Dennis Lyxzen has a naturally beautiful voice that can be soft and throaty or loud and deep. And, likely to avoid falling into the stereotypical “alternative” music black hole, the arrangements include various instruments, such as the Rhodes piano, making it more complicated and interesting without creating an all-over-the-place beat.
Their title song, “Bigger Cages, Longer Chains,” prepares you for the rest of the album by using the full combination of percussion, horn arrangements, saxophones and Rhodes, instruments that are broken up between the rest of their six songs. The saxophone, especially, gives the title song and another, “When Words Are Not Working,” an immeasurable amount of depth and intensity to both music and content.
The cover of N.E.R.D’s “Baby Doll,” placed smack in the middle of the song line-up, provides the only truly unique-sounding song, which is almost sung in a whisper by Lyxzen. He is supported by soft strumming and echoing, breathy sounds emitted from the background.
The most admirable aspect of the band, though, is still their loud-mouthed approach to voicing their political opinions. A Phil Ochs comment about the perfect band being a combination of Elvis and Che Guevarra was the seed that spawned the band in ’98, for chrissakes. An excerpt from a speech by Noam Chomsky, the phenomenal political and social critic, is included on the disc along with quotations concerning social problems and human nature placed inside the cover.
But the record has it’s problem spots, specifically in the length of the tracks, which usually hover around the five-minute mark. My Ritalin-deprived attention span starts to dwindle after about three minutes, to become almost non-existent by four minutes. By the fifth minute, I’ve moved on to contemplating the origin of the substance splattered on the building outside my window.
Mabye I was expecting more of a hardcore/rock type of sound reminiscent of “Smash it Up” from their debut in 2000 called Survival Sickness, or of the rough screams and distortion of Lyxzen’s previous band, the Refused. Maybe it’s my overwhelming disappointment with the direction the mainstream rock world, one that turns poppier every day, has chosen to take. While T(I)NC’s tone has always grown in the direction of the Strokes sound, possibly being one of the father’s of the trend, the poppy beat has never been so overwhelmingly apparent in past albums as it is in Bigger Cages, Longer Chains.
The worst, and maybe most unfortunate, part, though, is the timing of this experimental record. They are just too late. This album would have gotten an amazing approval two years ago, but now it just leaves me confused, hoping I haven’t infected my precious stereo with an upcoming relative of the White Stripes.