Refused - The Shape Of Punk To Come
Burning Heart
Progressive Hardcore, Experimental Rock
12 songs (55:07)
Release year: 1998
Refused, Burning Heart
Reviewed by Goat

The Shape Of Punk To Come: A Chimerical Bombination In Twelve Bursts, to give the album its full title, is without doubt one of the finest Punk/Hardcore albums ever to be released. Where The Sex Pistols had the attitude, and Discharge the fury, Refused had the progressive outlook, the experimental drive and the musical skill to achieve something with it. That’s not to say, of course, that Refused lacked attitude or fury, au contraire; the band was as well-known for its radical left-wing ideology as its music, with the last show they ever played being stopped by police repeatedly. As the infamous ‘Refused Are Fucking Dead’ final press release states, how can the band show the seriousness of the situation when every expression, no matter how radical, can be transformed into a commodity, when every political idea has to become safe and categorised so that it can be defined by journalists?

The statement goes on to demand that newspapers burn all their photos of Refused, so that ‘we will no longer be tortured with memories of a time gone by and the mythmaking that single-minded and incompetent journalism offers us’ but they really hit on something earlier. Even this review is guilty of trying to compartmentalise the band and its views, to sum it all up in a few words so that people who weren’t there at the time can get an idea of what it was like – written by someone who wasn’t there either, of course! Messrs Lyxzén, Sandström, Steen and Brännström probably hate my guts just for having written this review, but perhaps I can allay their wrath by stating, again, just what a good album The Shape Of Punk To Come is.

Influences range far and wide – the name of the album may or may not have been borrowed from Ornette Coleman’s 1959 release The Shape Of Jazz To Come. Even relatively straightforward blasts of Punk fury like opener Worms Of The Senses/Faculties Of The Skull have clear progressive structures that don’t sacrifice catchiness or heaviness, and touches like the outro of the track being a Spanish DJ introducing Refused over a techno backing work well. It’d take far too long to go through each track and explain just what makes it awesome, but awesome they all are, from the applause at the end of Liberation Frequency to the pure Jazz of The Deadly Rhythm, the Electronica of Bruitist Pome #5 to the Thrashy aggression of New Noise.

Of course, that’s simplifying things: New Noise itself is about much, much more than the aggression, featuring elements of both Electronica and Prog Rock within its five minute running time. Even short tracks like The Refused Party Program have their own experimental facets, like that track’s spoken word intro and pulsating electronic outro. Unlike the stereotype, this is one Punk album that will take many listens before you ‘get’ it, and the complexity means that each listen uncovers something new.

Refused were born out of a desire to reinvigorate the flagging Punk world, to produce something that showed the way forward for the genre, and the band have influenced many of the more interesting artists to come forth since then, despite the overall descent of the genre into pop nonsense like Blink 182 which was partly a factor in the decision to split the band up. To end on the band’s own words, from Summerholidays vs Punkroutine: ‘Rather be forgotten/than remembered for giving in’. Well, they sure as hell didn’t give in, and although subsequent projects from former Refusedniks such as The (International) Noise Conspiracy and TEXT have hardly hit the same heights as their former band, as long as people are listening to The Shape Of Punk To Come they won’t be forgotten.

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