NEW OFFICIAL REFUSED SITE)
in gasoline. A restrospective look into
the scene shaping work of the seminal Swedish band.
In 1998 a Swedish
hardcore band called Refused released their third and what was to prove
their final studio album The Shape of Punk to Come. Despite
being lavished with praise amongst circles in the punk underground, the
album largely slipped unnoticed, underneath the radar of the mainstream
music press at a time when the nu-metal behemoth was beginning its ominous
rise, and was dismissed on the underground scene by some purists for straying
too far from the strict hardcore rulebook. After close to seven years of
increasing inner tension and ideological conflict, after touring the album
the band called it quits. The music world barely batted an eye-lid at the
to 2005 and Refused songs are played every weekend in rock clubs the length
and breadth of the country, The Shape of Punk to Come is
widely heralded as one of the most important punk-rock albums ever recorded.
A veritable who's who of rock music today are lining up to name drop them;
from stadium giants Metallica, Foo Fighters and Sum 41,
to the UK's very own Muse, Hell Is For Heroes and the recently
departed Million Dead, who even named themselves after a Refused
lyric. It seems everybody who is anybody is going out of their way to pay
tribute to the band.
2004 saw their
record label Burning Heart re-release three of their albums and soon their
long delayed retrospective DVD Refused are F*cking Dead will
be upon us. So letís look at the legacy they left us and examine what's
exactly happened in the last seven years to lift a group of disbanded far-left
leaning Swedes from relative obscurity to being one of the most influential
bands on modern rock music.
up all night planning my revolution with a catchy phrase. A shitty band
with an awesome plan.' Refused,
of the straight edge ethic, Refused formed in early 1992 on the north-east
coast of Sweden, in the city of Umeå. Rising from the ashes of Step
Forward, godfathers of the local hardcore scene, the band was the
brainchild of drummer David Sandström and vocalist Dennis
Lyxzén. The formative years of the band's life were marked
with a host of line up changes as the band strived to find the perfect
chemistry. Despite the revolving doors their recorded output never faltered,
in 1993 they released their The Is The New Deal EP, and later
in that year they recorded their debut full length This Just Might
Be... The Truth, while 1994 saw the emergence of their Everlasting
seven track. The band themselves readily admit how much US hardcore standard
bearers like Youth of Today and Gorilla Biscuits influenced
their early sound. Much like Nirvana with Bleach and At
The Drive-In's Acrobatic Tenement, their earlier recordings,
while definitely worth investigating, only really show fleeting glimpses
of what the band were truly capable of at a later date.
about your self-pity, forget about your petty problems, forget about your
to these tracks today, one of the most interesting and significant aspects
of their evolution at this time is the shift in lyrical content, with Lyxzén
abandoning more personal themes and moving towards the political. From
seething anti-capitalist rhetoric to venomous tirades on social oppression,
it's territory that in time would come to define the band to many, and
open the minds of many a young person around the globe.
With the finally
settled line up of David Sandström, Dennis Lyxzén,
Steen and Jon Brännström, 1996's Songs
to Fan The Flames of Discontent was where Refused fully began to
craft their own distinctive sound, and in turn, to catch the attention
of punk, hardcore and metal fans across the UK and mainland Europe. Many
consider the album to be Refused's year zero, given it was the first time
the "classic" line up had written together, with David Sandström himself
admitting that the group almost consider this as their first album.
In late 2005
we're swamped week in, week out with identikit hardcore bands blatantly
pillaging the latter day Refused sound, using the album as a blueprint
to success. So it's a testament to its quality that despite its many imitators,
nine years on from its initial release Songs to Fan The Flames of Discontent
still sounds like such a remarkable, pure and vital album. Undoubtedly
Refused's most aggressive and metallic material, it's the sound of protest
music at its very fiercest.
say the classics never go out of style, but they do... they do. Somehow
baby, I never thought we'd do, too.'
of the Senses'
After a heavy
bout of touring, the band became increasingly frustrated and tired of the
insular thinking and hypocritical actions of the punk scene. In late 1997
Refused decamped for eight months with the now renowned producers
Henricsson and Eskil Lövström, to begin working on
what was to become their definitive release.
this album wanting to challenge people's preconceptions of what a Punk
band could be and what it could play, because Punk is the most conservative
musical form there is. Even in Hardcore, there are so many rules about
what is and what is not acceptable, and that completely negates the whole
spirit of the original idea."
The fact that
the inlay sleeve of The Shape of Punk to Come contained an introductory
essay attempting to explain their evolution should go some way to illustrating
the full extent to which the band so daringly overhauled their sound. Explosive
opening track 'Worms of the Senses/Faculties of the Skull' sums up everything
that's both stunning and yet utterly bewildering about the album. Mixing
spoken word, hardcore, traffic and radio samples, electronica and techno;
on paper these components appear to make a complete mess, but in reality
when it's pumping out of your speakers at full volume, it works magnificently,
augmenting as many ideas into one song as many bands manage in their entire
Every one of
following 11 tracks are equally spectacular, all offering something totally
unique from the others, each a piece that complete the overall jigsaw.
Similar in one sense to Radiohead's opus OK Computer,
what are stunning tracks individually combine and sound even more compelling
when heard in their full context. From the freefall jazz drop outs of 'The
Deadly Rhythm' to the quiet / loud floorfilling perfection of 'New Noise'
to the string soaked 'Tannhäuser/Derivé', the eight minute
long eastern-tinged soundtrack to the most epic Ang Lee movie never made.
Very few bands have attempted to utterly smash boundaries as Refused did
and as a result The Shape of Punk to Come genuinely stands
out as one of the 1990's most pioneering and challenging records. Quite
simply, in a genre that is constantly evolving and re-inventing itself,
Shape of Punk to Come has no equals.
rather be dead than alive by your design'
were perpetually hinted at, especially within the inlay of The Shape
of Punk to Come and in the midst of a seven week US tour, the band
cancelled the remaining shows and announced their split. To this day the
band members have rejected all the offers to speak to "disgusting journalists
whose only aim is the selling of issues and the cashing in of paychecks",
having turning down the cover in Alternative Press (The biggest
rock magazine in the US) last year, and have gone on to in all intents
and purposes, disown their swansong release.
their last statement claims that Refused broke up because of their disgust
of how music is always categorised, dumbed down and turned into commodity,
going on to claim that with four separate projects they would be able to
reach more people than one single entity ever could. Of course such a statement
was always going to raise a few eyebrows, and in this day and age, where
internet messageboard help spread rumours around the world at the click
of a mouse button, the reasons behind their demise certainly didn't avoid
speculation. From certain band members having difficulty keeping up the
with increasingly complex nature of the music to a widening void in their
political philosophies; no stone was left unturned by people wildly speculating
from the safe faceless anonymity that the internet provides. Certainly
the fact that, without their lead singer, Sandström, Steen and Brännström
went on to release an extremely experimental album together under the moniker
of TEXT, comprised of post The Shape of Punk to Come
material before disbanding completely, certainly does little to quell these
do we go from here? Just about anywhere. Disorientated but alive'
Sandström has released two solo-albums under the name David
Sandström Overdrive; Kristofer Steen has been heavily involved
over the last couple of years in the development of the aforementioned
DVD; Jon Brännström is working on a project called Jon
F Kennedy; meanwhile Dennis Lyxzén greatly divides fans
opinions by fronting the decidedly more commercial sounding garage-punks
(International) Noise Conspiracy and has also released a trio of
solo albums under the guise of The Lost Patrol, renamed The
Lost Patrol Band earlier this year.
denying the fact that Refused have undoubtedly become something they'd
always have hated, a seminal band much like Fugazi, who due to their
fabled ethics and sub-cultural significance have become a credible name
to drop by musicians, lazy journalists and scensters. As they so eloquently
in their final press statement,
"When people are being praised
as geniuses and idols just because they play music... We will never play
together again and we will never try to glorify or celebrate what was.
All that we have to say has been said in our music/manifestos/lyrics and
if that is not enough you are not likely to get it anyway." Elaborating
at the end of the statement that they would no longer give interviews "...So
that we will no longer be tortured with memories of a time gone by and
the mythmaking that single-minded and incompetent journalism offers us."
other great acts like Botch, Husker Du, and Drive Like
Jehu have similarly gone on to receive substantially more critical
acclaim, and not to mention, commercial recognition since their demise,
Refused's rise to prominence is something else, on several grounds. While
it's been proven time and time again that it's difficult, if not impossible
to be sufficiently subjective about an album when it has only been released
relatively recently (just take a look at every music poll the great British
public are ever responsible in voting for) but with The Shape Of
Punk To Come Refused made an album much like The Beatles and Nirvana
were famed for producing; an album that will continue to be discovered
by younger and younger fans as time goes by. Music is seldom if ever truly
timeless but there's the simple undeniable fact that at the time of its
release The Shape Of Punk To Come was a criminally overlooked record.
Now, at a time when hardcore has never been so synonymous with the mainstream,
it's able to reach so many more people than it ever could at the time of
it release. With image driven bands like Atreyu, Avenged Sevenfold
and Eighteen Visions taking both their running mascara and the rather
loosely attached tag of hardcore to a new MTV generation, a fresh audience
has emerged, eager to follow the latest in musical fashion.
One final reason
as to why Refused stand out is the rather simple fact that they appeared
to split, somewhat unusually in the music world, at their artistic peak.
It could be argued that along with the likes of At The Drive-In,
Buckley and Nirvana, they ended at the very top of their game
(though the latter two for much more tragic reasons altogether). While
other acts such as Metallica continue to grind out albums, tarnishing
their once great legend in the process, these acts never got the opportunity
to disappoint fans by playing past their musical "best before date" or
releasing a disappointing record.
be forgotten than remembered for giving in'
Holidays vs. Punk Routine'