Music: Refused, THE MUSIC (Part 2/3)

Fuck the System in a Dozen Bursts and Chimeras

The Swedish band Refused from the northern industry town of Umeå shaped the punk scene of the 90s as well as the straight edge hardcore genre. With their masterpiece album The Shape of Punk to Come they earned pop cultural fame in epic proportions. In proper distinction to others of the branch Refused caught the very essence of punk music: politics.

by Kilian

music: “it would be the perfect metaphor” 

Despite their output the years before only one record should gain such a high status in popular music history and overall critical acclamation. That is why I focus on the last album: The Shape of Punk to Come: A Chimerical Bombination in 12 Bursts (1998).

The album opens with a non-instrumental prelude of spoken words accompanied by the sound of a busy street. Blurred guitar noise augments slowly. Thirty seconds later a fulminant burst welcomes the audience in one of the most important albums of the 90s. With their 55-minute-long play Refused transcended everything they had done before. The Shape of Punk to Come awakes as the avant-garde of punk music. Therein the band oversteps the bounds of the known by incorporating experimental arrangements, electronic instruments, jazz and classical themes. But despite the magnificent experimental and avant-garde character of the album it has its strongest roots in deafening and noisy hardcore punk which is audible throughout the record.

The clean and grooving double guitar riff underlined by falsetto vocals in Liberation Frequency is interrupted by loud, distorted and screaming gusts of hardcore sequences asking “what frequency are you getting? / is it noise or sweet sweet music? / what frequency will liberation be?”. A walking contrabass line in the middle of The Deadly Rhythm sows jazz notes in the violent soil of the song that however already begun with a second of jazz trumpet play just to be followed by a Summer Holidays vs. Punk Routine with its catchy guitar riffs which foreshadow indie songs of the 2000s. After this Bruitist Pome #5 with its vibraphone melody, drum and bass beat and spheric electronics delivers a calming bridge to the band's biggest hit, New Noise. This track comes with a superb rock song structure proved by the outstanding unwinding of the intro that ends with the famous words “we lack the motion to move to the new beat”. A spheric drum and bass interlude softens the senses before the overdriven guitar walls tumble down on the listener. The legendary Colonel Kurtz from Francis Ford Coppola's Vietnam epos Apocalypse Now is sampled with a short monologue and fits in the lyrics some verses before: “great words won't cover ugly actions - good frames won't save bad paintings”. Here, too, the band stays programmatic: how can we expect anyone to listen if we are using the same old voice? / we need new noise – new art for the real people”. 

"In the wake of our existence, in our parades and in our dances;
touch, see and behold the wisdom of the party program.
Essential in our lifetime and irresistible in our touch,
the great spirits proclaim that
capitalism is indeed organized crime
and we are all the victims."
Refused Party Program

The Refused Party Program, opener of the second half, continues this vision and states the message to be communicated: “this is the pulse, this is the sound / this is the beat of a new generation / this is the movement, this is the rhythm / this is the noise of revolution”. Surrealist writer Henry Miller's novel Tropic of Cancer is cited as opening phrase in Protest Song '68 which again alternates heavy parts with a clean guitar and vocals on an electronic beat. Grooving drums and guitar riffs finally state that “beyond ability and control we could be weekend lovers” on Refused Are Fucking Dead. The masterpiece Tannhäuser/Derivé begins with a violin that gracefully shivers for beauty, then the drums enter softly and a guitar plays a melodic riff on overdrive. This classic performance is completed by harmonic interludes on chords, drums and vocals alternating with brutal riffs and screams until contrabass, melodica and violin provide an enchanted outro. The album ends with The Apollo Programme Was a Hoax. When the contrabass bends its melody a nearby chair is cracking and a wonderfully clear acoustic guitar starts a picked two-part voice. Soft and sedate vocals and a gloomy melodica convey the final lyrics: “the destruction of everything is the beginning of something new / your new world is on fire and soon you'll be, too / sabotage will set us free / throw a rock in the machine”.

large and substantial fan page 

sources of pictures