The (International) Noise Conspiracy - The Cross of My Calling (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

The (International) Noise Conspiracy

The Cross of My Calling (2008)


First impressions are lasting, and The Cross of My Calling is actually my first taste of the Swedish post-Refused band, the (International) Noise Conspiracy. The group's sophomore run with producer Rick Rubin takes punk, garage, soul and straight rock 'n' roll into an amalgamation of sound that's intent is to capture that organic `60s tone: Voice cracks and fret noise are all present and the distortion factor is at minimum in the same fashion Green Day accomplishes with Warning:. The rhythm section itself consists of a noodling bassist that you both hear and feel, a guitarist who utilizes huge-sounding open chords and blues phrasing while tastefully placed pianos, organs, harmonicas and bongos embellish the rest of the empty spaces -- oh, and let's not forget the drummer who pounds about, shifting times effortlessly throughout the 14 tracks.

My overall first impression? "Impressed" would be an understatement, but let's take a little deeper look into this (as if that first paragraph wasn't over analytical enough, right?).

The short introduction track (appropriately dubbed "Intro") initially gives off the impression that the guitarist wants to butcher a decent blues-influenced riff with the picking attack of a three-year-old, but at second glance the raw, minimalist approach isn't mistakable. After an increase of speed and rhythmic collaboration between drums and guitar, "The Assassination of Myself" kicks in with a palm-muted riff preceding a foot-tapping chorus. "Arm Yourself," after a brief riffing on organ, continues with a barre chord progression à la the Clash with a rockabilly feel. "Boredom of Safety" is a midtempo rocker, with some of the most impressive vocal performances of Dennis Lyxzén on the album, eventually moves from a slide guitar over simple arpeggios to a crying guitar solo.

After the instrumental interlude (also appropriately named "Interlude"), the second half of the album is introduced: "Washington Bullets," probably the catchiest song on the album, has a chorus -- in stereotypical punk form -- that contains a chanted call-and-response; its verses will be stuck in your head for days. The closing and namesake track, "The Cross of My Calling" is eight minutes of fluent guitar licks, grooving bass lines and dynamic vocals. Lyxzén eventually concludes saying, "Hold me in your arms like you promised me / when the music stops," before the instruments take the album into its end.

To my surprise, Lyxzén doesn't yield his sense of melody in order to rant his obvious hatred of capitalism; his styling is simplistic, finding a healthy medium of radicalism and clichés to not clutter the music with ideology. Bellowing "right now / I know / this is the way to get back in control" may not be as powerful as some of his Refused lines, the restraint keeps things from sounding overbearing.

Sometimes heavy and driving, sometimes upbeat and infectious, The Cross of My Calling has shown me a side to smashing the state that's both conscious and fun.