Pretty Good, Wish It Were Longer
Originally hailing from Umeå, Sweden, INVSN (pronounced “invasion”) started as a slightly less aggressive solo project of Dennis Lyxzén, the fiery lead singer of politically charged hardcore group Refused. After Refused broke up, he added members from other Swedish rock bands to turn his project into a full band. Refused reunited in 2012 and so Lyxzen’s commitments continued to gravitate back and forth between the two bands — whether it be because of album releases or tours. INVSN have his focus now, though, with the release of their new album, The Beautiful Stories.
The Beautiful Stories, as a whole, is hardly reminiscent of the work for which the hardcore Refused became known. Instead of the hard-hitting sound and biting political rhetoric, it features a more retro power pop/punk hybrid relying on earthy, tom-heavy, drum grooves and thudding bass, with guitars and keyboards adding texture on top. Lyxzen doesn’t scream at all; instead he trades singing passages with backing vocalist Sara Almgren, whose calm voice is a good contrast to Lyxzen’s slightly more intense style.
There are only seven songs on The Beautiful Stories, a far lesser amount than that featured on the typical modern album. The opener is the ominous “Immer Zu” (German for “keep it up”), which steamrolls along with strong vocal interplay and dark intensity. After that comes the anthemic “This Constant War,” about general inner turmoil. Other highlights are the Billy Idol-esque “I Dreamt Music” and the Top 40 synths populating the back-half of closer “Love’s Like A Drug.” One large misstep is the song “Bom Bom,” which sounds like the band ran out of ideas and started throwing song fragments at the wall to see what would stick over a one-note bass drone (spoiler alert: unfortunately, none of them did).
It’s a pity that the album only has seven tracks, because The Beautiful Stories feels like it is over all too quickly. Lyxzen’s punk roots still show in small flashes, but, for the most part, the album offers a more nuanced and melodic sound that’s well constructed and fun to listen to.