A Chimerical Bombination in 12 Bursts

They told me that the classics never go out of style but, they do, they do.
Somehow baby, I never thought that we do too.

– “Worms of the Senses”, Refused

In style or not, you’d have to be pampered, tone-deaf guinea pig living in a sheltered hamster-ball-topia with giant wads of cotton stuffed in your ears to not hear the incredible, revolutionary force of the album The Shape of Punk to Come by the Swedish group Refused.

If you were trying to organize your record collection by putting them in labelled boxes sorted by genre, I don’t think you could do it. Listening to The Shape of Punk to Come, it’s pretty obviously punk, but there’s more. It’s got the angsty, blood-curdling, empowering screams and heavy, rhythmic power chords that every good hardcore band should have, but there’s also flavors of experimentalism that I usually associate with the art rock style of Pink Floyd (did I just commit punk heresy by saying that? Maybe the Velvet Underground instead), taking the listener down from the angry pedestal of rebellion to introspectively reflect upon the same revolutionary, anti-commercial themes through a more level, sober lens. The album features spoken-word poetry, sounds from the streets, electronic music, Eastern European folk, and even some accordion. It seems that the band thought up every musical rhetorical strategy they could use in order to get their message across to the listener on every level possible, appealing to both the radical vigilante and reflective philosopher found in the minds of many music lovers.

There is no destination
But with a goal in mind
We can all be realistic
Demand the impossible

– “Tannhäuser/Derivè”, Refused

Refused calls for change and revolution both instrumentally and lyrically. They dare to dabble and blend colors from a myriad of otherwise conflicting genres, all the while pleading, screaming, demanding that the corporate big brothers step down and release their grip on the world so that the common person may be liberated to live and express themselves as only free people can.

There’s no room for art in a world that is completely dollar-centric — the only statement anyone with that mindset could make is “I want your money and I’ll trick you into giving it to me by pooping out catchy, thoughtless, empty pop songs that’ll be stuck in your head forever”. Commercial success was not on the minds of the band members when they recorded this album, proving that they really meant it when they said “Rather be forgotten than remembered for giving in” in the song “Summerholidays vs. Punkroutine”. They were goal-driven artists with a cause and a purpose who couldn’t give a damn if they were too much for the faux culture of the commercialized mainstream to swallow.

Someone has to be brave enough to say that there’s something wrong with the system, that there’s always room for improvement and change for the better. Because that change isn’t going to happen if we all just continue to wander around with our eyes closed, hoping that everything will be alright if we just wish hard enough in our heads, but never dare to think it out loud.

They say that change is a natural thing, but sometimes it needs to be man-made. Sometimes, someone has to realize that we humans have manufactured our own problems and only we can get the ball rolling and start to fix them. But we’re a prideful species and some of us are protective of all that we create, even our unjust systems and prejudiced establishments. It takes brave people to realize that only we can stop the Frankenstein monsters we’ve created.

We want the airwaves back
We want the airwaves back
We want transmission for the people
By the people

What frequency are you getting?
Is it noise or sweet, sweet music?
On what frequency will liberation be?
On what frequency will liberation be?

– “Liberation Frequency”, Refused

It seems that the twenty-first century world was constructed with money-making as the sole purpose in mind. A world where lit screens and excess are king. Where supposedly pleasant bubble gum pop and sensual music videos are made to keep us entertained, even though they add nothing to conversations but scandal and tabloid headlines.

The Shape of Punk to Come serves as a reminder that the most progressive controversy is found in ideas, not outrageous designer outfits. If we can escape the influence of an overbearing media, we free ourselves to explore thoughts and concepts that we may have never considered before. If you take an alternative path, there is room to make a statement and have a meaningful impact on the world.

Consequence of no choice at all
Empires rise and empires fall.
Now its time to flip some coins.
And it’s time to turn some tables.
Cause if we have the vision I know that we are able.

– “The Apollo Programme Was A Hoax”, Refused

From the revolutionary, fist waving, protest of “New Noise” to the immersive, haunting, and ethereal “Apollo Programme Was A Hoax”, The Shape of Punk to Come is a journey and experience with countless climaxes, daring experiments, and introspective interludes that will either hit you like a slap you in the face at the crack of dawn or reach down into your heart and grab your soul, like witnessing a tragedy that you can never unsee — urging you to step up, take action, and do something real with your life. Refused created a layered, complex work of art that considers the past and looks towards the future, outwardly defiant and cynical but on the inside, deceptively optimistic that the better side of human nature will someday rise above and make positive change. Whatever the shape of punk to come in future days may be, I am confident that it will come and that it will make a real difference.


©2010 by Pelle Sten [CC-BY-2.0]

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