This review is part of a series looking back at significant albums on their anniversaries. Through the benefit of hindsight we will be viewing the album not just as it was released, but how it stands the test of time, as well as its place in the band’s discography and the genre in general.
Burning Heart – 23 Oct 2001
The definitive statement from a criminally overlooked band
The (International) Noise Conspiracy gets left out of a lot of conversations these days, but there was a time when punk fans were forgetting about singer Dennis Lyxzen’s former band, Refused, and flocking to T(I)NC gigs in droves. The legend is that Refused broke up in the first week of their American Shape of Punk to Come tour, Dennis flew back to Sweden, and started rehearsals for The (International) Noise Conspiracy pretty much the next week. That was 1998 and by 2001 the band had released three albums that increasingly pushed the limits of how much punk, soul, and garage rock could blend. The most successful product of those experiments is their third album, A New Morning, Changing Weather, released twenty years ago today.
The most common criticism launched at Dennis Lyxzen is how closely he – at least for a time – was following the same career path as Ian Svenonius. Refused is Dennis’s Nation of Ulysses – whose final album Plays Pretty For Baby has as much distinct visual iconography and concept album style through lines as The Shape of Punk To Come. Following the dissolution of Nation of Ulysses, Svenonius formed The Make Up – who helped to pioneer the garage-punk sound that T(I)NC and The Hives would build their discographies on. The career analogies pretty much stop there. While Lyxzen makes conscious efforts to place his work within a larger punk rock context (Shape of Punk to Come is certainly the most heavy handed) he’s no copy cat. The songs across A New Morning, Changing Weather do more than hold up: They continue to age well and their politics (maybe unfortunately) get more and more relevant every day.
There’s not a bad track across the album, although there are songs that I wouldn’t put on by themselves. It really speaks to the strength of the album as a whole, that it has some clear singles, but is totally successful as a front-to-back listening experience. “Up for Sale,” “Bigger Cages, Longer Chains,” and “Capitalism Stole My Virginity” are all standout singles – they were all released as individual singles or EP’s so I’m really just agreeing with the band here. What makes A New Morning, Changing Weather so successful in relation to their other albums is that it strikes a strong balance between the band’s punk background and their soul / garage experimentation. The first album The First Conspiracy is fantastic but is very heavy on the punk side. The follow up, Survival Sickness, sometimes swings too hard in the other direction (although the title track is phenomenal). The balance on A New Morning is perfect, helped in no small way by the increased presence of Sara Almgren on organ. “Capitalism Stole My Virginity” is a great rosetta stone for how this band balances the energy of punk rock with the grooviness of soul.
The fourth album, Armed Love, was something of a misstep for the band, and the final album, The Cross of My Calling was plagued by label disputes and never really saw the release it deserved in America, partly leading to the dissolution of the group. A New Morning, Changing Weather really stands as the band’s best statement and should not be ignored by anyone who hasn’t heard it. Of course Refused has overshadowed T(I)NC’s reputation, but A New Morning, Changing Weather stands far above anything else Dennis Lyxzen has done (but I’ll still defend The Shape of Punk to Come as a masterpiece any day).