Burning Heart / Epitaph
By: Eric G.
Former Refused frontman Dennis Lyxzen gave up punk for sixties mod garage rock? What is going on? His style of music may have drastically changed, but his message remains the same as Bart Simpson’s and Public Enemy’s: fight the power. It’s impossible to ignore Lyxzen’s political yammerings on his band’s album sleeves. He’s so outspoken he can’t help but draw attention to himself. With Refused it was very easy to stomach the anti-capitalist preachings because the music shot through your heart like a fresh injection of steroids. With The (International) Noise Conspiracy, however, the ranting isn’t quite as convincing simply because it’s hard to take any message seriously when it’s accompanied by a perfectly palatable and catchy chorus.
Lyxzen tricks the listener into reading his manifesto in the liner notes through eye-catching cut and paste artwork and a sheer bulk of information because he wants to apologize for his “hollow” lyrics. Evidently, rock music is too restrictive, making it impossible for him to express himself fully. He’s got a point. If you listen to the lyrics, there’s really nothing very deep or philosophical going on that, say, The Yardbirds didn’t cover decades ago. It’s comical to read what Lyxzen claims each song is about, though. On “The Subversive Sound” Lyxzen sings “tonight we’re gonna feel the heat/right now between the sheets” (among many other similar traditional rhyming couplets), but when we turn to our guidebooks (liner notes) we learn that what he’s really trying to say is that “music is nothing but a(n) abstraction of an old and dull idea of bourgeois self-realization.” Right. Good thing he told me that. Otherwise, I would have really been lost.
Survival Sickness is a good record despite Lyxzen’s socio-political call to arms. Sure, musically, it’s been done. It’s even been done much better by countless underground sixties bands too numerous to name, but Lyxzen’s a charismatic entertainer. His mutilating scream doesn’t surface very much, but his antagonistic, punk-rooted vocal inflection drives the rock and roll home with enough energy and fervor to keep Refused fans pacified for the time being. The music may be garage rock in style, but the production is too good for garage purists. The guitar and organ riffs are as catchy as Lyxzen’s vocals, and the music is a retro-bluesy racket. It’s just all sort of anti-climactic after hearing The Shape Of Punk To Come, though. Survival Sickness is a solid debut, but it won’t start the riot Lyxzen envisions.