30th June 2015 – Epitaph Records
02. Old Friends/New War
03. Dawkins Christ
05. Thought is Blood
06. War On The Palaces
07. Destroy The Man
09. Servants Of Death
10. Useless Europeans
There are six very important words you could say to any Refused fan that invoke glossy-eyed reverence: The Shape Of Punk To Come. The prophetically-titled album changed things for a generation of punk-infused music, but nostalgia is a double-edged sword. Time – the great softener and rose-tinter of glasses – has instead hardened many hearts to the prospect of a new Refused album; especially when the band were so adamant that they were done some 17 years ago.
Nevertheless, here we stand with exactly that. Freedom is the mark of a new era for the Swedish legends, but is it a case of new noise or the same old voice?
“Elektra” begins proceedings with a fast-ball throwback to TSOPTC: the drums bear more than a passing likeness to those of 1998′s “Refused Are Fucking Dead“. It’s not the only one that does it, but it’s an immediate reminder of the standard to which this album will be held.
Throughout, there’s a militaristic feel across the spectrum. Whether it’s the marching beats of “Old Friends/New War” and “Françafrique“, Lyxzén’s language, or indeed some of the track titles themselves, where the Refused of two decades ago were all sweaty idealism, Freedom is a much more focused, martial rallying cry. The politics, so important to the band in the past, are clearly as vital to them as ever. There are no punches pulled either; monikers like “Useless Europeans” and “War On The Palaces” betray no false allegiances to flags or faith. Other songs in turn point ire at of countries meddling in the affairs of their former colonies, or the folly of replacing one false messiah with another.
Many of the tracks are catchy as anything. The opening “la-las” of “Dawkins Christ“, or “Françafrique“‘s call to “exterminate the brutes” linger long in the memory. In this regard, Refused have lost none of their potency.
But it’s not new noise. For a band so adamant about the importance of new and interesting music in conveying ideas, there are moments where the songwriting and sonic quality smack of The Shape Of Punk To Come, and it feels more like ill-disguised laziness than recapturing the past. “366” is particular offender, with a riff ripped almost straight out of the title track, and whilst catchiness and foot-tapping moments are aplenty, it’s a reminder that this is more dad-punk than rad-punk.
In all honesty, following such a revolutionary and influential album, after so long away, was impossible – no matter how good Freedom might have been. As it stands though, it doesn’t really even come close. It’s a safe record, with little enough to hold the attention of a generation they helped inspire. Next to such utterly infectious wall-bangers as “The Deadly Rhythm“, “New Noise” and “Refused Party Program“, this new clutch just doesn’t cut it, and whilst it’s a shame, it’s ultimately not a surprise. For me, Refused are still Fucking Dead.