It takes a fair amount of balls to release an album called The Shape Of Punk To Come then walk away from the scene, leaving one of the most influential punk rock records in recent history in your wake. That’s exactly what Dennis Lyxzén did in 1998. As singer and lyricist of the innovative Swedish hardcore band Refused, he and his bandmates provided a blueprint for a generation of bands on how to write a punk record. Then they disbanded. However, it wasn’t long before Lyxzén reappeared fronting The (International) Noise Conspiracy, brandishing some good old-fashioned rock’n’roll. “I always try to switch it up for every record,” he tells me about his diverse body of work. “I’ve never really done two records that sound the same. I always want to challenge myself and try and do new stuff.”
The (International) Noise Conspiracy’s last album came in 2008. “When I was done with Noise Conspiracy, or when we went on hiatus, I wanted to do something a bit different. So I started singing in Swedish,” Lyxzén says. Thus INVSN (pronounced ‘invasion’) began to take shape. Lyxzén enlisted a few friends from Noise Conspiracy and from his power-pop side project The Lost Patrol Band and got to work.
After recording two albums in Swedish under the name Invasionen (Swedish for ‘invasion’, duh), INVSN took to the studio to record their third album, INVSN – their first in English. It undeniably takes inspiration from the late ’70s and early ’80s post-punk sound, but Lyxzén struggles to pinpoint any direct influences. “We wanted to keep an open mind. We tried not to become a pastiche, but [tried] to make a record that has that influence but still [is] recorded in 2013.”
Lyrically, Lyxzén remains the dissident punk rocker he’s always been. INVSN doesn’t appear to reach the confronting heights of Refused or Noise Conspiracy, but a tiger can’t change his stripes. The frontman is still as political as ever, but this time in a less-than-obvious way. “Being a bit older, I don’t have the same need to lash out at all things at all times,” he laughs. “That’s kind of the only way I know how to write. Sometimes when you listen to these artists that tell a narrative and tell a story, like the Bruce Springsteens and Bob Dylans; I could never write lyrics like that.”
Our conversation soon turns to the content (and value) of contemporary music today. “I think what happens is that we fall into a recession and things are looking pretty bleak financially for young people. So people just tend to go to really horrible escapism,” Lyxzén hypothesises. “That’s what happened in the ’70s. That’s what happened in the ’90s, and it’s happened again. People just think, ‘I know that life is messed up so I just want to dance.’ And all of a sudden the biggest artist in Sweden is a DJ that hasn’t even released a record. That’s kind of unbelievable.”
But as we talk politics and punk rock, I’m kind of thankful for people like Dennis Lyxzén. He’s an observant and intelligent man measured against a plastic industry obsessed with fame, which uses music as a commodity instead of an art form. I ask the man for some parting words. He laughs and responds: “Read Lipstick Traces by Greil Marcus. Listen to The Stooges. Listen to The Clash. Listen to Bad Brains and listen to Dead Kennedys.” I couldn’t have said it better myself.
BY RICK WARNER
INVSN out now through Razor & Tie/Shock.