INVSN: The Beautiful Stories
Album: The Beautiful Stories
Release: Feb. 2017
Label: Woah Dad!
Like a lot of people who grew up with punk rock in the 1990’s, I had the top of my skull blown off by Refused’s The Shape of Punk to Come, with it’s genre-bending mix of hardcore, punk rock, political ideology, jazz and industrial noise. For me, Refused never showed such an original, creative intensity before that record, and relatively recent reunion effort Freedom was a pretty boring, disappointing shell of the band’s penultimate release.
Dennis Lyxzén’s next effort, The International Noise Conspiracy, went a slightly different direction, blending 1960’s mod textures cribbed from bands like The Jam with (some of) the hardcore intensity and aesthetics of Refused, with mixed results. 2000’s Survival Sickness and 2001’s A New Morning, Changing Weather were both well-received, solid efforts that showed promise of a different sound while retaining the passion that made Refused such an influential, beloved hardcore band. Unfortunately, 2005’s Armed Love failed to muster any of the same passion or creativity (while trying to push in a different direction), and 2008’s The Cross of My Calling is utterly un-noteworthy.
Enter INVSN, and their 2017 LP, The Beautiful Stories. INVSN finds Lyxzén exploring a somewhat more personal lyrical base with another hard turn into another genre. INVSN are five Swedes exploring the depths of mid-80’s goth and new wave, while retaining some leftover International Noise Conspiracy DNA. It’s an imperfect record; lyrically, the shift into more personal songs doesn’t appear to come very easily to Lyxzén, and it can result in a few verses that sound like high school poetry, like this, from the (otherwise standout) track “The Distance”:
“Watch the roses wither away
As you sit and pass the blame
The beautiful stories that you tell
Justify this hell”
Occasional clunky lyrics aside, The Beautiful Stories is a solid, if sometimes underwhelming record. Side A opener “Love’s Like a Drug” sets the tone for the entire record, with a dark and menacing thump
The aforementioned “The Distance”, one of the best tracks from the record, is a fantastic dancefloor song, clunky lyrics notwithstanding. “Deconstruct Hits”, a duet between Lyxzén and Sara Almgren, INVSN (and International Noise Conspiracy) bass player is another standout track that draws equal influence from 1980’s goth/new wave and early 1990’s underground radio.
In fact, throughout the record, INVSN are at their best when they layer Almgren and Lyxzén’s vocals together, alternating the high and low points between each other. Andre Sandström’s pounding toms and tambourine on “This Constant War” help drive a raging chorus that blends some of the best elements of Refused and The International Noise Conspiracy while maintaining a tight control that ebbs and flows throughout.
Overall, I wouldn’t say The Beautiful Stories is a great record. But it is a good record, worth the price of admission.