The hotly contested reunion or comeback album. Purists will bitch and list off 40 million reasons why a band should never re-enter the studio after calling it quits. They’ll tarnish their legacy. They can never re-achieve past glories. They’re too old. They’re not the same band anymore.
The list never ends.
And in a way, those points have some merits. After all it has been 17 years since Refused put out the revolutionary The Shape of Punk to Come. A recording that is universally considered classic and difficult to categorize. And shortly after the release of that record, the band imploded capped it off with a fiery press release stating “Refused are Fucking Dead.”
As new album Freedom (Epitaph) clearly points out, they were not fucking dead. After a series of reunion shows in 2012 and 2014, frontman Dennis Lyxzen, guitarist Kristofer Steen, drummer David Sandstrom and bassist Magnus Flagge still had some of that future punk left in them. Best of all, is that much like Carcass in 2013 and At the Gates last year, Refused sound as good and confident as they did in their 90s heyday.
Lead single ‘Elektra’ probably states it best: “Time has come, no escape.” It indeed is time for Refused’s left-of-center brand of noise. America at least, seems to be in an odd state of regression. We count corporations as people and have segments of the population that see the Confederate flag as “heritage”, and view same-sex marriage as a threat to their religious freedom. That’s without counting those denying global warming or the anti-vaccination movement.
And to show their discontent with the state of affairs, Refused keep the vitriol and attitude going in other punk scorchers like ‘Dawkins Christ’ and ‘Thought is Blood.’ And when they choose to turn down the assault it’s with tracks like ‘Old Friends/New War’ that while not as a raucous still keep a sharp edge as Lyxzen finds that “there’s no other choice but to create some noise and sharpen up my mind.” And we’re glad that you’re up to your old tricks.
Also, much like in The Shape of Punk to Come, these Swedes find room for eccentricity in Freedom. In the liner notes you’ll notice that both ‘Elektra’ and ‘366’ were produced by Shellback, the hitmaker known for his work with Adele and Taylor Swift. Once again proving that they are the most punk by following their muse rather than convention.
We need more records like Freedom. We need them because they remind us that certain genres are supposed to be the dangerous ones. I’m disgusted by the fact that the punk bands that prevail today happen to fall under the abomination known as “Pop-Punk.” A musical oxymoron whose practitioners are perfectly content to play arenas and extol the virtues of eating pizza and wearing fitted hats.
It’s nice to see that some are still choosing to live dangerously.