Judging solely from the trippy swaths of psychedelic instrumentation that kick off the “Intro” of the (International) Noise Conspiracy’s fifth album, it’s clear things are going to be more ’60s- and garage-influenced for Sweden’s favorite revolution-minded punks. Even when the first proper track, “The Assassination of Myself,” comes bouncing into frame, its guitars owe more to the Who and the Byrds than to any of the hardcore bands that inspired vocalist Dennis Lyxzén’s beloved former group, the Refused.
To be fair, it has been 10 years since the Refused disbanded, and the (International) Noise Conspiracy have spent that time honing their craft to the ultra-catchy, less-abrasive state it’s in today. Stuffed with topical references, The Cross of My Calling sees Lyxzén with his sights still trained on rabble-rousing, whether examining war (“Dustbins of History” and “Hiroshima Mon Amour”), religion (“Child of God” and “Satan Made the Deal”), radical activism (“Arm Yourself”) or America in general (“Washington Bullets”).
The jangling propulsion of so many songs—not to mention Rick Rubin’s glossy, in-your-face production—helps to keep Lyxzén’s tirades breezy and accessible, but at the same time, it instills them with a toothless laxness. After all, it’s hard to have your mind changed by a song when you’re tapping your feet to tambourines. “Storm the Gates of Beverly Hills” is one of the most poppy tunes here, making it not so convincing when Lyxzén repeats, “All this shit is making us ill.”
The band fare better on “Black September,” an organ-ripping rave-up spiked with screaming, but it’s too little too late. This album finds the once-mighty (International) Noise Conspiracy sounding more like their countrymen the Hives, and while there’s nothing wrong with that, it may not be what longtime fans are craving.