REFUSED RELEASE THEIR NEW ALBUM WAR MUSIC ON OCTOBER 18TH VIA SPINEFARM/SEARCH & DESTROY/CAROLINE AUSTRALIA
The members of Refused were all active in different bands in the early nineties, aware of each other, playing shows together but separated by the unshakeable apartheid of underground music. A small town’s subcultural cliques are not to be trifled with: since there's no actual subculture the cliques are all people have. The town in question, Umeå, lies in the north of Sweden which means it has four types of winter in a row and is not technically fit for human habitation. It was settled once upon a time out of dire need and growing up there you would start a band simply to approximate a dignified existence, lighting a beacon in a peripheral, sub and pop-culturally impoverished and literally dark part of the world. Though for any kind of artisan it was in no way a limitation since there were no distractions from getting good at whatever it was you chose to do.
Back in the winter of ‘91/’92, David (previously quarantined within the minuscule death metal faction of the scene) and Dennis (three years David’s senior and already a local punk icon) chose to form Refused after spending the first six months of their friendship experimenting with different genres on a bunch of four-track demos that they maintain will never see the light of day. Their other bands were already in varying stages of disintegration and as their manic energies collided within this new constellation, the resulting cassette demo made a noise loud enough to start a chain reaction that in some sense carries on to this day.
Thereafter they basically just did what bands do: got better and better, added talent (Kristofer Steen most notably), toured a lot, put out ok to good records, midwifed a youth culture, inspired youths within said culture to destroy property, had their phones tapped by the secret police, evolved musically at a blinding speed, began disagreeing regarding the bands essence, made one great record and then broke up smack dab in the middle of a 1998 US tour.
Now, the events contained in those last two paragraphs have been mythologized and the resulting myths have passed through a 20-year long game of telephone and ended up in that truth-adjacent phenomenon we call music history. This is neither the place nor the time to discredit a good yarn but let's just say that we, as a species, have a tendency to disproportionally favor the type of stories that have people acting in a way that mirror the ideals and behaviors we ourselves aspire to most fervently - and leave it at that. The band’s abrupt demise generated a bunch of unanswered questions and one strangely evasive attack-is-the-best-defense type statement in the hyperbolic "Refused are fucking dead"-manifesto. Literally accurate in its representation of the factors that precipitated the bands collapse or not, it's at least not boring. (It makes the most sense when looked at as a decoy, like in movies where bandits use raw meat to distract a terrifying watchdog.)
This stunt was followed by 14 years of silence in which time the members of the band truly did all manner of things (people in bands are rarely the lethargic type) before reconvening for a triumphant comeback tour in 2012, to great jollification among its constantly proliferating fanbase. They enjoyed being back together so much that they decided to stay an active band - a surprise even to themselves since they'd had quite a thin time of it prior to their hiatus.
They say ruins are the triumph of oxygen and time, and time had definitely not treated all parts of the Refused machine with the same care. But after some fine-tuning they were able to set about re-configuring their artistic objective. The record that emerged in the process was called Freedom, an ambitious, adventurous and cerebral foray into the peripheries of post-hardcore, metal, hard rock and even, in finishing "Useless Europeans", some sort of industrial sludge rock. What it wasn't was a genre-faithful diehard-fan-appeasing record. Some old writer said: "It's better to die than live mechanically a life that is a repetition of repetitions" and it's probably safe to say that David Sandström, Dennis Lyxzén, Kristofer Steen, Magnus Flagge and Mattias Bärjed live their lives and make their music in accordance with this dictum.
So is there a point to all this rambling? The answer is no. But if you've made it this far then you deserve some sort of pay off, so here's a joke by the great Norm Macdonald:
"I wouldn't call myself a fan of Steampunk. But I will say, it is the healthiest way to prepare punk."
Refused have a new record coming out in October called War Music and it's absolutely brilliant. Thank you for your patience.
Formed in Umeå, Sweden in 1991, hardcore-punk legends Refused are one of the most influential rock bands of the early ‘00s. Artists as diverse as Linkin Park, Rise Against, Steve Aoki, Paramore, Thursday, Dillinger Escape Plan, Blink-182, and AFI have been heavily cited crediting the release as being a fundamental influence on their musical styles. That album has become a cultural touchstone for the entire post-hardcore generation as the year zero of stylistic genre-bending - utilizing electronics, jazz and slick production for the first time – their reputation tent-poled by politically radical lyrics and solidified by their energetic live shows to spread their message.
After a 14-year pause, the band reunited in 2012 playing much anticipated shows like mainstream festival Cochella and were subsequently awarded the “Special Prize for Music Exports” by the Swedish Ministry of Trade in 2013. In 2015, they released their fourth studio album ‘Freedom’ which was recorded with Nick Launay (Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, Killing Joke), while also turning to Swedish pop/producer Shellback –whose credits include Taylor Swift and Britney Spears –for the lead single “Elektra”.