Friday, April 27, 2012

Refused - The Shape of Punk to Come (Classic Review of the Week)

After seeing Refused play their reunion show last Monday I thought it would be appropriate for me to spotlight them for my classic review of the week.  It's been interesting to see how the public opinion on Refused has turned into something of a rollercoaster over the past few years.  When this record came out in the late 1990's the band was on the cusp of breaking up and most of us never saw these songs played live back then. 

Though, I recall after the band's demise this album becoming something of a breakthrough in that it seemed liked and accessible to a myriad of people coming from different perspectives. Despite it's technical musicianship and overtly political lyrics, the songs seemed to be well received by more than just fans of political hardcore.  The late 90's and early 2000's were ripe with the notion of "Damn, I wish Refused would get back together". 

The record was brilliant. There's this perfect blend of simplistic guitar work over complicated drumming and time signatures that helps the band maintain a technical background while simultaneously keeping the riffs accessible. Lyrically, this record was diving into social and political issues headfirst.  Perhaps it was the approach or maybe just the perspective, but this had a way of stripping some great concepts to their core and presenting them in desperate terms that carried an anthem-like value.

But then came the DVD. Yes, the DVD that chronicled the last days of the band with some post commentary entitled "Refused are Fucking Dead".  Just being honest here, but the DVD was not the most flattering for the band.  It painted them in the light of a bunch of guys who were good at what they did, knew they were good at what they did and had no problem talking quite a bit about how they were good at what they did.  For 90 minutes. Yeah. Despite how much we all loved the record when it came out, the DVD didn't provide much inspiration to those of us that had but this album in our "classic" status filing cabinet.

Then came the backlash. There were conversations where people would tell me how this record didn't hold up to today's standards.  Though I shared their disappointment in the DVD documentary, I still felt the record, it's songs and lyrics, were still completely relevant.  I also felt that these songs could completely crush a lot of what was being hyped as the next big thing in the current landscape of hardcore.

So yes, I paid my $37 and went to see Refused at one of the largest venues in New York City last week.  And yes, they lived up to every bit of precise musicianship, energy and passion that I thought they would. This record is still a classic, this band is still relevant, and there will never be another record like this. 

Download it here.