Ask not for whom the bell tolls…but why the damn things keep waking me up

So. Bands break up. It sucks, but that’s the way of things. For most of them, the reason is pure and simple; on some level, they suck. Whether it’s only a little, or harder than a $20 hooker, it doesn’t matter; the world doesn’t lose a whole bunch. The members go on with their lives, and probably go on to make a greater impact in other areas of society. Like selling office furniture (this is funny because it’s exactly what I do HAHAHAHA…).

Then there are bands that are forced into submission for other reasons: money, conflict – both personal and artistic – or sometimes the fanbase only comes after they’re long gone.

This is a chronicle of those bands. Most you will not have heard of, for the very reason that they’re not even around to promote themselves any more. But trust me, they are bands that you really really should have heard of.

A classic this week: the mighty Refused.

“There’s more coming. We’re gonna get, gonna get little sort of a session going here. A bit of a session, a session that will feature the rhythm section…”

The party program. The deadly rhythm. New noise. Fucking Refused.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8clGuSJLP5w]

It struck me last night that a whole generation of kids have grown up sans Refused. This isn’t to say that some haven’t caught the bug retrospectively, but it’s been twelve years since they parted ways. That’s a long time people. Even I was only eleven.

This is sadder considering the current political climate. I’m not saying there’s not always some turmoil, but let’s face it; there’s a fair bit of turmoil at the moment. America’s bombing and locking up brown people like nobody’s business, pointing fingers over senseless shootings and generally arguing amongst yourselves. We’ve got our own share of that in Britain, along with violent student protests and recently-elected politicians lying through their back teeth. Things are not fun.

Refused were the epitome of a political band. They were left-wing as fuck, and whilst they didn’t advocate violence, they knew that true change isn’t inititiated by voting at your local village hall or brokered over a nice cosy cup of tea.

Their primary concern was the stagnation of expression:

How can we expect anyone to listen
If we’re using the same old voice?
We need new noise

It couldn’t be truer if you ask me. But enough of my pseudo-political ramblings.

01. Worms of the Senses/Faculties of the Skull
02. Liberation Frequency
03. The Deadly Rhythm
04. Summerholidays vs. Punkroutine
05. Bruitist Pome
06. New Noise
07. The Refused Party Program
08. Protest Song ’68
09. Refused Are Fucking Dead
10. The Shape of Punk to Come
11. Tannhäuser/Derivè
12. The Apollo Program Was A Hoax

Let’s not fuck about now; The Shape of Punk to Come: A Chimerical Bombination In 12 Bursts is one of the most important albums of the past twenty years, and not just for its political message. It really was the shape of punk to come; you’d be hard pressed to find a hardcore band of a certain age that hasn’t spun this album at least a hundred times.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m3AoiVMQqX4]

This is one of those records that absolutely stands the test of time. Like I said, Refused broke up over twelve years ago, and The Shape of Punk to Come can easily stand next to any contemporary punk or hardcore record; and with most it squats over their face and farts loudly.

Unfortunately, such an intense band couldn’t hold up under the weight of its own mission; nor should it have. According to their own message, there needed to be new noise:

A division into five new directions means in practice five new projects that can challenge and fight the boredom and death that sneaks into our everyday life. Five new ways to make the political manifesto that once was known under the collective spanner of “the Refused Party Program” concrete, five new forces that can devour and choke every tendency of the bourgeoisie shackle that keeps us down.

(Read the rest of this important document – their final manifesto “Refused Are Fucking Dead” – here)

Okay, so it’s a little heavy-handed, but perhaps that’s what we need; what we’ve forgotten. So off they went and left this behind. Refused are fucking dead.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aDJi5r6DuP0]

They certainly didn’t renege on their promise though. Vocalist Dennis Lyxzén is currently in no fewer than four bands, including The International Noise Conspiracy, which was formed just after Refused’s split and is still going strong. His most recent project is AC4, another hardcore band which also features former Refused drummer David Sandström.

Sandström was also in a band called TEXT with the rest of Refused; Kristoffer Steen and Jon Brännström, and released one album, which was considerably more avante-garde than their previous work.

To be honest there’s a massive network of more recent projects from all of them, which fulfills that promise they made of spreading; of not succumbing to boredom.

I fucking love this band, and if you haven’t heard them before then get off your arse and pick up this album – it could be the most important thing you do this year.

– CG

If you have any suggestions for this column, please send them my way to chris(at)heavyblogisheavy(dot)com or leave a message in the comments section!
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