By Idle Matt - Idle Minds - 10/12/2005

In one of the more shocking concert line-ups of recent years, everyone’s favourite fervently anti-capitalist punk/garage band, The (International) Noise Conspiracy, opened for The Bravery. This is almost as shocking as when Ash opened for... The Bravery (?!) earlier this year.

Seriously though, what's the deal with The Bravery? Do they always invite bands to open for them and that are guaranteed to outshine them?

And what’s the deal with The (International) Noise Conspiracy opening for The Bravery? I’ve been a Noise Conspiracy fan since they formed in 1998, and before that, I was (and still am) a huge fan of lead singer Dennis Lyxzén's earlier hardcore band, Refused, but recent decisions made me hesitate in accepting this review assignment. First they sign to a major label, and now they’re opening for a band who, to be honest, seems like a cookie-cutter band hand-crafted based on what They thought was cool. Curiosity got the best of me, so I decided to check it out.

The evening began with People In Planes from Cardiff, Wales. Honestly, they sounded like an inferior, bland(er) version of Incubus... and I don't even have a very high opinion of Incubus. In the middle of the third song (a fairly boring ballad-ish song called "Falling By The Wayside" which had the band members swaying back and forth and looking very serious), I had enough and went to the lobby to check out the merch table.

I’ve never seen an opening act have more merchandise than the headliners.

The (International) Noise Conspiracy, hereon in referred to as T(I)NC, had enough merchandise to make Wal-Mart proud. However, amongst the merchandise was a selection of books from AK Press, purveyors of radical literature, hand-picked by the band and road crew. Something about the thought of your typical 16-year-old Bravery fans leafing through copies of “The Revolution Of Everyday Life” by Raoul Vaneigem ("the essential handbook for all of us still alienated by modern capitalism") brought a smile to my face.

I struck up a conversation with the merch guy, who admitted that he was a little shocked that the band was opening for The Bravery, but admitted that it was great exposure for band. Then he broke my heart when he told me that the band starts a tour with Turbonegro in a few days. Now that’s a show I’d actually pay for…

A full-sized T(I)NC backdrop befitting of a headlining band was in place and after a lengthy wait trying to work out a technical glitch, the lights went out and very effective intro music by Public Enemy began. The band came out with their standard matching outfits, this time black jackets with red undershirts.

The band began with “Black Mask” from their most recent release of the same name, finally released in North America after being held hostage during a major label shake-up involving American Recordings. Unfortunately, the technical glitch was still there and the sound was pretty sub-par. To make matters worse, Dennis’ mic wasn’t working and the song suffered until he was forced to steal the guitarist’s backup-vocal mic.

This was my third time seeing the band and besides the sound, they were as entertaining as always (although I still miss the female presence of organist Sara Almgren… so sue me, she was kinda cute up there). I don’t completely buy into their political stances, but they write some rockin’ tunes and always put on an energetic and entertaining show.

The songs were met with a very good crowd response. People were clapping along, but the band had little success with their attempts at sing-alongs during the choruses. I knew this wasn’t your typical T(I)NC show when I saw a group of girls waving their glowsticks in the air. The crowd cheers were also definitely a little more high-pitched than usual. And then a funny thing happened… the girls in the audience started screaming like they were watching some teen idol!

Dennis was up to his usual, highly entertaining schtick from the school of James Brown and as the show progressed, the high-pitch screams got louder after each of Dennis’ moves. At one point, Dennis lifted his shirt, exposing his nipple… and cue the screams. Not sure if anyone heard me laugh my ass off.

During a particularly sloppy rendition of “Capitalism Stole My Virginity”, Dennis did his best Iggy Pop impression by walking on the crowd and having people support his feet up as he sung. Only thing missing was the peanut butter to spread on himself.

As usual, all the rock n’ roll grandstanding was counter-balanced by healthy doses of anti-capitalist, pro-union, radical ranting and imagery:

  • “Like A Landslide” was dedicated to the teachers on strike across Canada.
  • Before “Let’s Make History”, something was said to the effect of “when we get together, we can accomplish great things
  • The word intifada was written on the Bass amp. (Literally "shaking off" in Arabic, the word intifada has come to denote Palestinian uprisings against Israel)
  • Before a song, Dennis talked about how they grew up listening to punk, to which the crowd cheered (“I love punk! Green Day rule my world”). And my vote for best sarcastic response, which I think went over people’s heads: “Yes… I know it’s very exciting…” He went on to explain how bands these days complain about how things suck, but don’t talk about the system and how things got that way. And that bands like The Clash, Public Enemy and Gang Of Four wrote revolutionary songs that tried to address the problems with the system… and that the following song is of the same ilk (at which point they started into “A Small Demand”).

Finally, their set ended with the band standing still with their fists in the air as Public Enemy’s “Power To The People” played. A message of black power… from a group of Swedes.

I was disappointed that they didn’t play “The Way I Feel About You”, which I consider to be the strongest track from the new album. Otherwise, it was a fairly pretentious and over-the-top set from T(I)NC… and I wouldn’t have it any other way. Despite some suspect career moves and seemingly contradictory political stances, at least they always manage to put on an entertaining show.

Which brings me to the headliners...

Named one of Rolling Stone magazine's Artists To Watch In 2005... The Bravery. Call it rock with a new wave edge or new wave with a rock edge... The Bravery's music is darkly danceable and eminently catchy. (Or so I’ve been told…)

Unfortunately, due to a press deadline, I had to leave before The Bravery started. You can check this earlier Bravery review. Honestly, even a band of The Bravery’s caliber shouldn’t be reviewed twice in the same year.

T(I)NC Setlist:
- Black Mask
- Up For Sale
- Like A Landslide
- Smash It Up
- Let’s Make History
- A Body Treatise
- A Small Demand
- Capitalism Stole My Virginity
- Armed Love

[Tune in to The Idle Minds Sundays 4pm – 6pm.]