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The (International) Noise Conspiracy 

With Circa Survive and Nightmare of You. Sunday, December 18, at the Grog Shop.

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The also-ran vibe is palpable on the new (International) Noise Conspiracy CD, Armed Love. This is a bit irritating, considering that these Swedes were on the front line of the garage-rock invasion way back in '98, when they splintered off from the Refused and came with a sexy, Farfisa-fueled charge. INC rocked many electronica-dazed hipsters well before the Strokes, et al.

But despite the band's fairly unusual dance flourishes and uniformed Stalinist imagery, laying down a completely compelling album has eluded INC. The band's horn-heavy soul leanings are appreciated, and frontman Dennis Lyxzen's more arena-rockin' vocal moves are surprising. But for the most part, Armed Love sounds a bit stuck in the musty garage-rock trend, with a loud Rick Rubin production that feels like a last grab at wider fame.

Live, the band's action-packed attempts to invoke the MC5's waves of chomping riffs still work wonders. While the contradictions inherent in the group's anticorporate sloganeering are louder than the guitars at this point (Armed Love's Epitaph/American co-release is especially suspicious), there's no denying INC's basic desire to whip the crowd upside the bum and get arms hooked together against "the Man."

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