Saturday, December 2, 2017

Refused The Shape of Punk To Come (1998) Review

Refused "The Shape of Punk To Come" (1998) LP Cover
The year was 1998, and I was fully into punk, hardcore, and a lot of other musical styles. None of my friends were into all the music that I was into, and I wouldn’t share much with them, because they didn’t agree with a lot of the bands that I enjoyed. I had to just hide a lot of it, or rather just spend time alone listening to cassettes in my bedroom alone. I would read big books and play a lot of records, and well, this was one of the most intriguing to me. I learned about Refused through their music video for “New Noise” which aired on Punkorama television in the late 1990s in Los Angeles. That’s where Epitaph Records would release music videos for play late night on Saturday nights, and I would record them on VHS tapes. Either way, Refused “The Shape of Punk To Come: A Chimerical Bombination in 12 Bursts” came through my stereo in late 1998 and blew me away. The record was released on October 27, 1998 on Burning Heart Records, and it is one of my favorite post-hardcore records of all time.

Post Hardcore and Walls of Guitar

I loved the stuff that Botch and Training For Utopia did for hardcore, as the brought walls of distortion and noise to their recordings. Snapcase did the same thing, bringing chaos and melody into a room and beating the crap out of it. Well, Refused did the same thing, with a focus on a lot of different genres, including punk rock, post-punk, and even jazz. They would include techno elements on this record as well, with a range of singing and screaming that is equally chaotic and simply enjoyable to listen to. The lyrical elements all combine to tell you a story of punk’s angst and futurism, with a focus on a lot of different elements including self loathing, politics, and more. There’s a focus on guitar work here, and the chaos of the guitars hits you like a wall of noise. The band was nothing short of loud and chaotic, and it’s interesting to see how the band was able to create such iconic music, and then break up shortly after.

Every Instrument Matters

Often times with hardcore and punk ,some of the instruments get lost in the chaos. But with “The Shape of Punk To Come”, Refused managed to include a sound for every element. That includes many instruments that you may not know are included in this record. The personnel played a variety of things, including guitars, samples, synthesizers, bass guitar, melodica, cello, violin, upright bass, and tambourine. You hear every sound in your headphones, and through your speakers. Of course Dennis Lyxzen screams the vocals a great deal, but that’s not lost amidst the noise of the record with lots of attention paid to the guitar work, and the drums specifically. Tracks that make a lot of focus on the instruments include “Liberation Frequency”, “New Noise”, “Protest Song 86”, and “The Deadly Rhythm”. These songs all bring forth chaos and melody, with a wall of distortion and drums that you cannot really dismiss as just one genre.

What Is Punk? By Refused

Refused really wanted to put out a great deal of music into this release, and it shows. The album is nearly an hour long, and has songs that are longer than the average punk rock disc. Not only that, there’s sounds that go beyond your ordinary punk tune, especially if you compare this record to the pop punk records that were exploding in 1998 and throughout the 1990s for that matter. While everyone was melodic and angsty, this was more political, and threw around a lot more ideas than what the regular punkers were doing. It’s actually an interesting attempt to overtake punk rock with the same sensibilities that Ornette Coleman did in 1959 with his jazz record with a similar title. The band pulled through a lot of guitar work on this record, and they redefined what punk and hardcore could be with 12 tracks of noise, art, and avant-garde range.

From Sweden With Love

The band is from Sweden, and they managed to create an iconic record that is not only stellar in 1998, but is absolutely heavy and interesting in 2017 and beyond. There are so many elements on this record, and a lot of attention paid to the layering and recording. You don’t just get a screaming singer, you have a lot to listen to, including some incredible guitar work, some great bass guitar notes, and drums that are chaotic at times, and jazzy at others. There’s a layered approach to punk rock that Refused truly mastered here, and it’s a shame that they didn’t follow up this record until 2015. “The Shape of Punk To Come” knocks you in the mouth with noise, and then paints a picture within the punk rock and hardcore spectrum that you are not going to hear from many other artists, unless you love all genres of alternative music. They send you for a true loop of musical arrangements, that’s for sure.

I give Refused “The Shape of Punk To Come” a 4 out of 5.

Refused set a whole new level of punk and post hardcore mixed music with this record from 1998. It still holds up a great deal, and has inspired a lot of bands to cover, and perform their music. The band has a lot of gusto in this record, and it’s truly a masterpiece of genres that are heavy, without diving into cookie cutter, or cookie monster growling etc.

You can buy the deluxe edition of Refused “The Shape of Punk To Come” by clicking here, or stream it, I don’t care. It’s 55 minutes of music, and if you get the deluxe edition, you get a lot more to hear, and watch, as it comes with a DVD!

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