I can smell smoke.....
INVSN – INVSN
9 months ago a frankly astonishing album landed on my desk courtesy of our Supreme Leader. The album was the self-titled debut by INVSN and it went to be named as my album of the year and to be honest I’ve still not heard anything since that can match it for sheer emotional power. At the time I exhorted everyone who read the review to go out and buy it as soon as possible but what I was unaware of was that INVSN had no scheduled UK release date at that time.
Thankfully the good folks at Razor & Tie/Essential Music have finally got their shit together and this phenomenal record will finally be available to UK listeners as of the 7th of July this year.
In celebration of this long-awaited announcement the boss-man has asked me to re-publish my original review for your delectation. I’ve re-worded it slightly so that it makes a bit more sense now that we’re 9 months down the line. So here you go; I hope you find it as exciting as I did when I first discovered it.
I have to admit to having never heard of INVSN prior to receiving the album, but the ever-wise and all-seeing Boss-man Dave informed me that they were in fact the new project from Swedish punk icon and Refused vocalist Dennis Lyxzén. Straight off the bat that news had me excited. Lyxzén was responsible for one of the most important punk albums of the 90s (1998’s The Shape Of Punk to Come) which took innovation in punk music to an entirely new level by incorporating dance beats and electronica in a traditional Hardcore sound. After Refused broke up following the release of The Shape… Lyxzén continued to make music both as a producer and with other bands, most notably The (International) Noise Conspiracy, a band whose melodic garage sound was a far cry from the furious electro-thrash of Refused.
Well it would seem that with INVSN Mr Lyxzén is once again pushing the boundaries of experimentation. Their self-titled debut album (out on the 24th of September on the brilliant Razor & Tie Records) is 10 tracks of beautifully crafted, electronica-infused pop songs that sit somewhere between 80s Goth Rock, early 90s synth-pop and the alt rock of bands like Sugar and the aforementioned Deaf Havana. As I’m writing this the Sugar reference makes me think that this is the sound that Bob Mould should have gone for when he ventured into electronic music instead of the catastrophically disappointing Modulate.
It’s quite hard to explain the INVSN sound as it encompasses so many genres, yet it manages to do so without being hard to listen to. In fact INVSN is one of the most listenable records I have some across in recent years. Each track is wonderfully different, but there is a constant thread of sound that runs through each one holding it all together and preventing it from sounding like a 12 Foot Ninja record.
The songs have the ability to unnerve you and make you smile and tap your foot at the same time and this is prevalent right from the start. #61 opens with a slowly building synth riff that is joined by electronic drum effects and finally Dennis’s unmistakable vocals. The chorus builds in the same fashion with Lyxzén’s vocals being supported by the wonderful Sara Almgren (a former conspirator in The (International Noise) Conspiracy) whose harmonies offset Lyxzén perfectly. I struggle to identify the guitars in this track, but you know what, I couldn’t give a fuck. #61 is a mesmerising start to the record.
Down In The Shadows picks up the tempo somewhat and has a dark, gothic vibe going on. The crashing metal-on-metal industrial percussion is hugely reminiscent of Black Celebration-era Depeche Mode with a healthy dash of early Nine Inch Nails thrown into the mix. Add to that a guitar tone stolen straight out of the Cure’s back catalogue and Almgren’s aggressive vocal style (that isn’t a million miles away from London Nu-Goth revivalists Cold In Berlin) and it’s like Lyxzén broke into my house, swiped half my CD collection and fused them together to create a song so pant-shittingly awesome that it defies description. I know what I’m starting to sound like here but I can’t fucking help myself.
INVSN is a very atmospheric record and much of that has to be down to the use of electronic instrumentation and that, rather bewilderingly, is exactly what has kept me coming back time and again over the past month of listening to this album. Ask anyone; the Baz likes 2 guitars, a bass, some drums and a singer. That’s the Holy Grail right there, no synths required. So why do I love this album so much? Answers on a postcard please, cos I’m at a fucking loss.
I’m resisting the urge to dissect each and every song on here for fear of turning this review into an epic to rival Homer’s Odyssey, but also because I want you all to go out and discover this album for yourselves. I want you to set aside a little bit of me time and let these songs take you places because you will find something new every time you listen to it. The over-exposure to new music that I’ve suffered since coming on-board at Rock n Reel Reviews has been overwhelming at times but this record has made me fall in love with music all over again. It has reopened an appetite for discovery and has led me to look back through my own collection again. As if to prove the point I’m sitting here listening to It’s All Coming Back and it’s made me want to go and dig out my copy of the Disintegration by The Cure.
When I first reviewed INVSN last year I proclaimed it to be THE best album of 2013 and I said that with confidence despite the fact there was still 3 months left of the year to go. I stand by that proclamation today with as much conviction as I did at the time of first writing. In fact, we’re half way through 2014 now and it’s still not been topped. It’s quite simply one of the finest records of recent times. How Dennis Lyxzén can keep producing boundary-smashing, genre-defining records like this time and again is completely beyond the ken of a simple music fan like myself. I just thank the tiny baby Jesus that he does.
So please, if you only buy one record this year, make it this one and join the INVSN.