In rock music, success is not necessarily dependent on musical proficiency. There are scores of ways to gain recognition — style, scene, story — but actual talent seems to be an incidental factor. Which makes The Cross Of My Calling, the fifth LP from stalwart Swedish rockers the (International) Noise Conspiracy, such a thrill.
Known for its strictly leftist political bent, the band rose from the ashes of Refused, singer Dennis Lyxzen’s acclaimed and influential ’90s punk band. But where Refused pummeled, the (International) Noise Conspiracy takes a more nuanced approach, emphasizing technical talent — the adept, funky guitar work of “I Am the Dynamite,” the meticulous syncopation and galloping momentum of album standout “Arm Yourself” — in the midst of force. The album isn’t without significant muscle — the chorus of “Arm Yourself” (“Gotta arm yourself to live”) is blatantly confrontational — but that punk power is presented in an attractive, accessible form. Tap your foot while you collect your munitions.
Although The Cross Of My Calling ostensibly provides an outlet for the band’s Marxist ideologies, its impeccable musicianship, arrangement and production make any political sloganeering irrelevant. This, after all, is a solid, straightforward rock album, not a sermon. It’s clear that Lyxzen and the band — and producer Rick Rubin — recognize and understand that it is talent, not style or message, that will always triumph.