Wednesday, 12 January 2011

Refused Are Fucking Dead

If you're going to name a blog after a song by a band, it only makes sense that you dedicate the first post to them.

Refused hail from Umea, Sweden. They formed in 1991 and spent a number of years churning out quality hardcore, mastering the genre completely by the time they released 2004's Songs to Fan The Flames of Discontent.

From the blistering opener 'Rather Be Dead', with its frantically-delivered list of things singer Dennis Lyxzen would rather be dead than put up with, the whole album is brimming an anarchy and energy that few of their contemporaries could match.

Few songs clock in at over three minutes and the album is entirely comprised of hardcore punk at its most intense. There are hints at the band playing around with form and structure. Their next album would blow apart any notions of how hardcore songs should be structured or what they should sound like.

The liner notes for 1998's The Shape Of Punk To Come are part apologetic, part apoplectic. They warn that fans of the bands earlier work and generic hardcore in general are likely to be disappointed, even angry, at the band's latest work.

The reason for this is that The Shape Of Punk To Come completely blows the genre apart. Fusing their firebrand hardcore with elements of electronic music, jazz and anything else they can find, it raised the bar for their contemporaries and has held a huge influence over the bands that have followed.
One wild world tour later, the band declared that their superlative final album had achieved all that they had set out to do. A final basement show in the States was shut down by the police, who raided the place as Dennis Lyxzen screamed out one final furious rendition of 'Rather Be Dead'. The bands history, right up to and including their dying moments in an American basement, were recorded for posterity and released on the DVD Refused Are Fucking Dead.

Since the band's split, Dennis Lyxzen formed The (International) Noise Conspiracy, describing the new band as 'a cross between Elvis Presley and Che Guevara'. With catchy rock 'n' roll tunes like 'Capitalism Stole My Virginity', the band were sonically lightyears away from Refused, though they still maintained Refused's political punch.

More recently, Dennis Lyxzen has returned to stripped-down hardcore with AC4. Shying away from some of the success attained by his previous bands, the new outfit apparently refuses to give interviews to anyone except '14 year-old fanzine writers'.

Essential Listening

1. Rather Be DeadRather Be Dead - Songs to Fan the Flames of Discontent

A furious rant that sums up the bands stance and believes perfectly.

2. Vodoo PeopleVoodoo People - The E.P. Compilation

A Prodigy cover that shows the extent to which the band are willing to blur genre and engage in musical reinvention.

3. Poetry Written in GasolinePoetry Written In Gasoline - The New Noise Theology - EP

Clocking in at just over seven minutes long, this is hardcore on an epic scale.

4. Liberation FrequencyLiberation Frequency - The Shape of Punk to Come

Flitting between soft melody and all-out craziness at the flick of the switch, one of the first tracks from The Shape Of Punk To Come sets out that album's genre-destroying intentions perfectly.

5. New NoiseNew Noise - The Shape of Punk to Come

Refused's most famous song and probably the only one with a professionally made music video, New Noise is quite simply one of the greatest things anyone has ever made.

6. Refused Are Fucking DeadRefused Are F*****g Dead - The Shape of Punk to Come

Foreshadowing the band's post-The Shape Of Punk To Come implosion, this explosive track is another of that ground-breaking album's stand-outs.

7. Tannhauser/DeriveTannhäuser / Derivè - The Shape of Punk to Come (Deluxe Version)

The Shape Of Punk To Come's denouement. An operatic epic that makes good use of a string section. A song that pushes the limits of genre to breaking point, then pushes those limits a little bit further.