on December 18, 2000
...and then some. Simply put--Refused's "The Shape Of Punk To Come" is the best punk album since, well...come to think of it, there isn't a punk album that even comes close. Unlike the ranting and whining of the Sex Pistols, or the sometimes brilliant and sometimes flawed punk of The Clash, Refused are both in your face and experimental without making any sacrifices. Refused know exactly what they're doing--reinventing a creatively dead genre. Let's take, for example, the first track, "Worms Of The Senses/Faculties Of The Skull." The song starts off with a little intro and then the guitars kick in with full force. The first words out of screecher (notice I didn't say singer) Dennis Lyxzen's mouth are as subtle as a crowbar to the head: "I got a bone to pick with capitalism and a few to break." While the song is basic guitars, bass and drums, albeit done better than any punk or hardcore band I've ever heard, it's not until the latter part of the song comes around that things get really interesting. "Let's take the first bus out of here" repeats Lyxzen over and over until the song explodes into absolute mayhem--mayhem, that is, that bands like MXPX, Bad Religion, Offspring, System Of A Down, and even the almighty Rage Against The Machine can't quite reach up to. Then, with no warning whatsoever, the song...stops. Some guy starts talking and, of all things, techno beats erupt everywhere. Green Day this is not. Refused singlehandedly made the punk genre new and fresh again with this one CD. How exactly? By incorporating heavy metal guitars, techno beats, a song time limit over two and a half minutes, violins, and even samples of jazz sessions--all of which are regularly a big no-no amongst punk bands. Thank god then Refused are no regular punk band. Like the punk greats before them (Fugazi, Black Flag, Nirvana, Sonic Youth, The Clash and, even to a much lesser extent, early Offspring), Refused aren't afraid of taking a chance--something that eludes all the mind-numbing punk bands of today. Naming your album "The Shape Of Punk To Come" is either very cocky or precise. As you'll quickly find out, Refused are the latter. Just take the first and only single off the album, "New Noise." "New Noise" is literally new noise--completely innovative. The song builds up for the first minute or so, then, just as you think the song is gonna explode, it doesn't. Those techno beats come back into play then our political hero Dennis screeches three magic words: "Can I scream?" And, as he answers himself, "Yeah!" More techno beats come in, as well as more samples, breaks and explosions. This song alone just proves my point that that Refused are still owed a revolution; it's utterly brilliant, and yet, it's just one song. "Protest Song '68" is smarter than Blink-182 or Green Day will ever hope to be. The guitars especially are noteworthy, the way they bleed, then go into a lush melody, and then scream bloody murder are pure genius. It's the darkest song on the album, and yet, it has one of the most beautiful melodies ever written smack dab in the middle of all the ugliness. How daring is that? Perhaps the lyrical highpoint on the album is "The Deadly Rhythm." Just take a look at what Dennis says: "Is it our duty to die for governments and for gods? Is it our privelage to slave for market and industry? Is it our right to follow laws set to scare and to oppress? Is it our gift to stay in line and will it take away the blame? We can no longer pay the price. We'll get organized. We will no longer believe that working for you will set us free." And yes, it's just as good musically, too. "Liberation Frequency" isn't unlike something Nirvana would do--whisper to scream vocals, soft to brutal guitars--just replace the angst with lyrics that attack radio. The beautiful vocals in the beginning make you think you're listening to a female singer, as they're very soft and feminine. But no, that's just Dennis waiting to scream his head off--and he does so during the chorus lines of "What frequency are you getting? Is it noise or sweet sweet music? On what frequency will liberation be?" Like, dude, um, I don't think Refused will be getting airplay on KROQ anytime soon. "The Shape Of Punk To Come" ends with--what else?--an acoustic song. The final lines of it are so truthful it's almost haunting: "Sabotage will set us free. Throw a rock in the machine." Sadly, on the eve of the album's release, Refused--again, what else?--broke up (hint, hint: I bet the song "Refused Are _______ Dead" was more than just a title). Supposedly, Dennis and the rest of the band couldn't see eye to eye on doing both political lyrics and creating brilliant music. Funny, I thought they did a pretty good job myself. While bands like NOFX and Blink-182 are "good in their own way" *grin,* Refused are where it's really at. In all seriousness, it breaks my heart to know that people were listening to KoRn, Jay-Z, and Marilyn Manson back when this came out over Refused. I think Refused themselves knew they might have made an album just a little too challenging and smart for some, but as the lines of "Summer Holidays vs. Punk Routine" go: "Rather be forgotten than remembered for giving in." That may be what Dennis says, but I'll never forget Refused. Never. "We could be dangerous--art as a real threat." This is the best punk album ever.