I discovered The (International) Noise Conspiracy in 2000 or so. They arose from the ashes of my favorite band of all time, Refused. I picked up Survival Sickness and A New Morning, Changing Weather simultaneously, and fell in love with both. The singles from those albums, and title track on New Morning remain among the most perfect rock and roll songs written during my lifetime. But it wasn’t until seeing the band live that my full conviction was sealed. My mortal brain is incapable of comprehending the science behind the energy these guys have. I’ve seen them in Philadelphia, San Diego, and Los Angeles; every town I’ve lived in. And every show raised the bar on how much effort a rock band can be expected to put into a performance they care about.
I have been anticipating their new album, The Cross Of My Calling, more than any other this year (Chinese Democracy notwithstanding), and I went crazy when an advance copy finally fell into my hands the other day.
I need to disclose my biases here; both positive and negative. On one hand, I love this band so much for so many songs and experiences that have come before this album, I’ll be reluctant to say anything bad about it out of fear of discouraging the exploration into the best parts of their body of work.
On the other hand, I like my rock music loud, fast, and angry, while The Noise Conspiracy’s albums have gotten progressively less angry sounding over the years. They continue to be fast and loud, but Johnny has already called one comment I can’t help make; that the album is a little happy for my tastes. After a dynamic and promising instrumental intro, Assassination Of Myself comes through sounding like the celebration of a commitment to self-improvement, a bit shy of badass. It’s a fun, feel-good jam though, and the band can’t be blamed just because I semi-secretly want every rock song to be Shout At The Devil.
The first half of the album, following Assassination Of Myself, is anthemic. They’re upbeat protest songs, with a tendency towards soaring, glorious choruses. The standout track is Child Of God, which I can’t listen to without turning up my speakers or headphones to dangerous levels. The verse is one of their catchiest yet, leading into wailing chorus, and an organ solo apparently ripping off paying homage to The Doors’ Riders On The Storm. Arm Yourself has a 70s mod revival / psychedelia feel with a very prominent hammond organ- complimenting the cover art more effectively than any other track.
Preceded by an instrumental interlude, the second half of the disc delivers attacks harder and delivers more of what I showed up for. I Am The Dynamite is the best track of the album, combining the feel of two older hits; crossing Capitalism Stole My Virginity with Smash It Up, while infusing the maturity and force of Armed Love standout track Let’s Make History.
I forget where I heard that Washington Bullets was a cover of a Clash song by the same name, and I’m not sure why I continued to believe it after hearing (and not recognizing any lyrics of) the song on the Causes 1 compilation released last year. But yeah, It’s not.
Satan Made The Deal is probably the second best track after Dynamite. I was expecting a lot, given that the title invokes the name of my rock and roll lord and savior and all. But it’s got a swaggering groove reminiscent of old Rolling Stones or good Bob Dylan. Black September starts off like Black Sunshine, and ends like James Brown on methamphetamines.
Putting an eight minute title track at the end of the CD teased me like you wouldn’t believe; Would this be the second coming of New Morning, Changing Weather? The first three minutes toy with my expectations, building ever so slowly to an explosion waiting just around the corner. But when it comes, it comes in the form of an instrumental landscape rather than screaming over stomp riffs. One of the strongest tracks on the album, it provides another tip of the hat in Jim Morrison’s general direction with the lyric “when the music stops” repeated in the chorus.
The official announcement for the album makes a lot of these curricular observations, citing references and inspirations in literature and history. I don’t care for much of that, and I suspect you don’t either. For the most part, whether or not you appreciate this album will come down to one of the following deciding factors:
If you’re already a fan of the Noise Conspiracy, it depends on how you rank Armed Love in comparison with their earlier stuff. Another Rick Rubin production, The Cross Of My Calling heads further into that more mature, positive direction. If you loved Armed Love, you’ll love this new album more. If, on the other hand, you love the earlier stuff more, and want them to get back to screaming punk rock music- if you’re praying nightly for a Refused reunion- you may be disappointed by this album.
If you’ve never heard of The (International) Noise Conspiracy, you might like this album even more than I do, since you’ll come to it without any bias or expectation. And if you do, you’ll be even more delighted with their older albums. For you guys, here’s a little video sampler spanning their career:
But either way, if you want a good rock and roll show, go see this band live. I promise you will not regret it. We’ll be covering their Los Angeles shows next week, before they set off on a tour of Europe. Head to their MySpace for dates.
The Cross Of My Calling
November 25th, 2008
Burning Heart / Vagrant / American
02. The Assassination Of Myself
03. Dustbins Of History
04. Arm Yourself
05. Hiroshima Mon Amour
06. Boredom Of Safety
07. Child Of God
09. I Am The Dynamite
10. Washington Bullets
11. Satan Made The Deal
12. Storm The Gates Of Beverly Hills
13. Black September
14. The Cross Of My Calling
Reviews published prior to February 23, 2015 used a 1-5 star rating system.