Refused, Shape of Punk to Come – Retro CD Review

Refused were a hardcore band from Sweden that started in 1991, and proceeded to rip up the world with their interpretation of how revolutionary music should be performed. With their third studio album, 1998’s The Shape Of Punk To Come, these gentlemen synthesized punk and hardcore punk sounds with jazz, spoken word, and electronic music, and served as a positive testament to what punk musicians can REALLY do. Unfortunately (in some minds), the band split a month or so after the release of the album.

This album’s opener, “Worms of The Senses/Faculties of The Skull”, begins with street sounds and a short recitation by singer Dennis Lyxzén. The song then bursts into gear, flaming throughout, and its only one major detraction for me is that it seems to run a bit long. It eventually degenerates into a section of noisy lo-fi heavy music that fades with a bit of radio static, into an announcement in Swedish, which is not titled as a track. This segues to the song “Liberation Frequency”. “We want transmission for the people” is a wonderful mantra to start the album’s propagandist attack on society, and it is just one of several that come up. “Deadly Rhythm” uses a transition from a jazz opening to a hardcore attack, while “Summerholiday vs. Punk Routine” contains yet another gem of a slogan: “I’d rather be forgotten, than remembered for giving in.” As a matter of fact, this band is just a haven of good revolutionary slogans. “Bruitist Pome #5” is a short, one and a half electronic, jungle/drum & bass interlude that leads into one of the best songs I have ever heard, and that is “New Noise”.

“New Noise” was released as an EP with the tracks “Blind Date”, “Poetry Written In Gasoline”, and the Bomba Je remix of “Refused Are Fucking Dead”; the original version of the latter is found as track number nine on the album “Shape Of Punk To Come”. The song is, in my opinion, a centerpiece to the album, and deals with, again, the concept behind the band’s belief that the music which has been appropriated by the masses for popular airplay cannot reach those who wish to cause revolution, and therefore must be reworked, or as they put it, “we need new noise…new art for real people”. A brilliant song.

“Refused Party Programme” is a short, angry stab introduced by a reading from Lyxzén; “Protest Song ‘68” has another chantable chorus. This all leads into the self-flagellating “Refused Are Fucking Dead”, which is a slogan song for the band itself and its general ideals. The album, as you may have guessed by now, is not just a piece of music but a call to action, a request from people to open their eyes and change the world. The title track, “The Shape Of Punk To Come”, is a combination of both a slandering of the punk fashion scene and, at the end, an encouragement to do something about it.

Of all the tracks on this album, the one I probably could’ve done without would be “Tannhäuser/Derivè”. This song seems to just go on and on, but I don’t mind it when I’m doing something such as washing the dishes (yes, I still do them by hand!) or folding laundry. The final track, “The Apollo Program Was A Hoax” is a nice closer. It’s actually acoustic, and all it does is c all to action, call to action. The final chant is “throw a rock in the machine”. If you didn’t know these guys were pro-revolt by now, you probably shouldn’t be alive, because you won’t be able to survive.

OVERALL: On a scale of one to ten, this one gets a solid nine. Even with the additional length of “Worms Of The Senses” and the boredom I sometimes get when listening to “Tannhäuser”, it’s still an incredible album. I think these guys did the right thing in splitting when they did; although their achievements henceforth have been overshadowed by this record, they needed the freedom to pursue their different paths. I mean, we can only insinuate so much of such a variety of music together before it sounds rehashed, or even worse, messy.