> THE MANIFESTOS / A PSYCHOLOGICAL SCRUTINY...
(LINER NOTES FROM "THE SHAPE OF PUNK TO COME")

I met Dennis at a hardcore show in Stockholm several years ago. Since then, through many trips to Sweden, I have gotten to know Dennis, David, Stone and Jon quite well. There have been many late nights talking, afternoons playing discgolf, countless hours sitting around in Dennis’ living room (which I have long since claimed as my own), and hard road trips while on tour.

When they asked me to write a piece for this album I was surprised at their choice of person. They all know that I am not the biggest fan of the type of music that they play and I am definitely not experienced at writing liner notes. I may know little about music but I know a bit about what the people in the band have been doing, thinking and experiencing since they made their last album. I suppose it is this that qualifies my thoughts on the matter as authoritative. What I feel that I am being asked to do is give a brief objective interpretation (if there can ever be an “objective” anything) of the underlying meaning behind a band like Refused releasing an album like this one. Now we shall see if I am up to the task at hand. To me this album is a reflection of tensions that exist within the band, or more to the point, most bands. These tensions are caused, in part, by diverging ideas, interests, and directions and, in part, by the obligations and responsibilities which being in a band dictate. There are multiple creative elements in a band which all contribute their part towards the creation of the whole. However, each of these people lead different lives and thus is propelled by different influences. To understand the impact of these individual differences one must turn to the underlying reasons behind the band’s very existence.

Initially, Refused came together with the common purpose of playing as a hardcore band. Getting the band up and running accomplished this. The commonality of initial purpose thus became obsolete to a certain extent. The initial purpose served as the adhesive and, when this dissolved, something further was required to insure cohesion. For some of the band members it is fact that the band provides a venue for the expression of ideas. The lyrics and message of the band has always had a political agenda. For others, the band serves as an environment in which to refine and advance their personal musical ambitions. Being that ideas can be expressed to any sound track, it is the latter of the above functions that is most susceptible to the passing of time. As time passes, the limits of growth and progression within a set paradigm get reached. If it is the goal to continue to produce then there are two paths that can be taken: expansion outside of the set paradigm or stagnation and, inevitably, repetition.

The musicians, to be true to themselves, have to expand in new directions. While this satisfies their obligations to themselves, it also satisfies their obligation to their past and their influences. Their past is given continued meaning through their progression and building upon it. Also, there are few things worse than mocking music that you love and the musicians who created by playing “down” to that music. A large part of what makes some bands so great is not just rooted in the actual music, ideas, or the fact that they “were the first to do it.” Rather, it is that they were giving their best effort and playing at the edge of their abilities at all times. If a band ever finds that it is not doing both of those things then they are not playing the kind of music that they should be playing. There is no better tribute to a creative influence than being creative. For a band to satisfy themselves as a collective, the trajectory of growth and change has to be acceptable to all. However, it must be kept in mind that “acceptable” is often inherently a compromise and thus, laced with internal tensions.

The satisfaction of the above often causes a new level of friction, that between the band and the people who like and support the band. It can be quite disappointing for a fan to get the band’s new album and then find out that it is different in a way not approved of. I am sure that everyone can relate this feeling to first time that they listened to “Scream of Consciousness” by Cryptic Slaughter or “Cold Lake” by Celtic Frost.

Differences are often smoothed over because there is a degree of change which is usually acceptable. Once this difference has exceeded the acceptable limit then a fan can do one of two things: move with the band or let the band move past them. “What are they doing?” might be a question that is asked after the first spin of this record. I suspect that the band would be the worst source to go for an answer to that question. I don’t believe they could really tell what they are doing or where they are going with this. All they know is were they came from, what they have done, what has been done by others, and what needs to be done. This is their response to the vague, yet compelling impulses which coax them onward. Is this really the sound and shape of punk to come? Maybe. Maybe not. It would be fair to say that the musical direction of the album fits into the revolutionary attitude of the band much more than anything which they have produced before. While in past albums, there were the hints of revolution, embedded in the lyrics and layout, in this album, the entire product conveys this suggestion of revolution. The lyrics, music, and layout all merge together to give you something different; something to inspire thought that runs much deeper that what is printed on the lyric sheet. Regardless of what it amounts to, the band is trying new possibilities, not just for themselves but for all whom expect them to create.

Patrick T. Daly
Oxford, United Kingdom
1997
 

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