Two years ago my life was changed in about 50 minutes. The Swedish nation had imported into our country the sounds and energy of a rock and roll band that would change the way I listened to and thought about the hardcore/punk rock-inspired music that I felt such an affinity for. On a fair sized stage, to a fair sized audience, I was a lucky witness to the power of Refused. Mesmerized by the energy, originality and passion the five Scandinavians delivered was enough to renew my faith in a genre long ago grown old and stale. The mythology of a show of this magnitude can not be explained in words or recognized by recorded sounds. The Refused was in a class by themselves. And the end was nearer then we all feared. Three days later, in North Carolina, the band’s borrowed van broke down and The Refused, who had already numbered their days got back on a plane and headed back over the Atlantic.
Their break through album The Shape of Punk to Come was a presentation in music construction and genre burning not displayed by any other band of it’s time. The mighty Fugazi cannot even match the out stretched boundaries that Refused created with this full length of ingenuity. Successfully combining elements of dance techno with hardcore and jazz, the poetic and furious Refused made political rock. The socialist rantings powered by the raw music made Refused perhaps one of the most honest political bands to ever emerge from such a fiery counterculture. The Refused could be taken seriously, believed in, and understood. They weren’t icons messing in the gene poll of the capitalist record company world nor did they borrow the images and ideas of great political philosophers to sell their music. The Refused was serious about the lack of global, social and personal politics running rampant through the world. If their words were not going to change the way you thought, the music would destroy you then. They could have said “join or die” and meant it.
The band was able to make a great number of waves in the hardcore scene. They made such a spectacle of themselves that they even gained a fair amount of airplay on some national cable station that is usually too busy catering to teenyboppers to air something revolutionary. The legend grew more and more and the kids went out and looked for the rock ‘n’ roll of the mighty Refused. Perception was changed. Many are still scratching their heads.
The recently issued CD The New Noise Theology is but a small introduction into the diversity of the band. This four-song disc is nothing more then a sucker punch into the brilliance and power of Refused. The disc features “New Noise” from The Shape of Punk to Come which was the probably the most powerful and original song to make the airwaves the year said album came out. It also features a long remix of the eccentric song “Refused Are Fucking Dead”. With two more poetic tracks the CD attempts to capture the historical band in such a short and unappreciated amount of time.
The gem of this disc and the reason to buy it however is the computer-enhanced video of “New Noise.” Punk rock loyalists have never been fans of these music commercials because they do little to enhance the presentation of a song because for the most part they are ridiculous bullshit short films. But this is not the case with The Refused. The video’s narrative adequately captures the politics of the band’s message as well as gives a glimpse of the destructive live set the band was known for performing. A photographer or filmmaker can appreciate this video just as much as the average punker.
The Refused is dead. It was a sad an untimely death. The Refused in such a short history changed the face of hardcore and political music forever. Their premature departure as a working entity proves that even the most passionate and energetic creation can not always be sustained. “The New Noise Theology” which may be the bands final testament will serve as a proper exit for the legend. Perhaps it can serve as a reminder to the politically minded, punk rockers, hardcore kids and anyone unsatisfied with rock music to what we all need to strive to achieve if we are to make real changes in the world.
// Notes from the Road
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