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The Shape of a Dead Horse. by Jayson
August 3, 2010, 10:13 am
Filed under: Credibility | Tags: ,

For me, the most shocking thing about Refused and The Shape of Punk to Come is that people still write about it. It took me a while to figure that out. It is one of those albums that critics love, but no one else really cares about. That’s the thing that stands out about it after thirteen years, how inconsequential the album ultimately was. For the devoted, that’s a blasphemous statement, but I challenge anyone taking offense to prove me wrong. It’s an album that is always named dropped and one that always makes top lists, but who exactly sounds like Refused today?

I stopped caring about punk about 6 or so years ago, but up until that time I can honestly say that the blueprint of punk from the late 90s was either Black Flag’s Damaged, the first four Ramones records, Bad Religion or NOFX. The shape of punk to come was more cookie cutter Fat Wreck Cords bands. Punk rock is one of the most formulaic and dogmatic types of music, right up there with top 40 country. So while it’s possible that everyone could have latched on the Refused sound, it’s also not surprising that almost no one did. Reading the Wikipedia entry for The Shape… the influences section is telling for the album’s lack of actual influence. Paramore used part of one song, and uh, the Used play part of ‘New Noise’ on their live DVD. Some bands you have not heard of named themselves after lyrics. I have a CD by a band called The Rise that sounds exactly like The Shape… so, there’s one; answered my own question.

That and Crazytown started off a song with the line ‘Can I scream?!’ which bummed out a ton of people who take music too seriously.  A decade later, one of the abortive versions of Anthrax played ‘New Noise’ live and everyone who watched that performance suddenly felt every minute of all their years…

And that ends up being the most enduring legacy of Refused and The Shape of Punk to Come, a go-to for lightweights, has beens and never will be’s when they feel like want to try an injection of credibility. That and a being a source of momentary outrage on the part of those of us who listen to Serious Music when some uninitiated rube dares to associate themselves with the band & album.

None of this is really the band or the album’s fault. It’s a really good album, and everyone should check it out. It and they are just not actually important or influential.

The singer went to immediately form The International Noise Conspiracy, who are about promoting Communism by wearing sexy clothes. Your mileage my vary, but I have always completely hated (I)NC. Maybe they’re working too hard on reconciling dialectical materialism with 20th century science or figuring out how to combat the tendency of vanguard parties to become entrenched, dynastic dictatorships with the power of matching outfits to rock.

My own theory on the Shape of Punk to Come is that it was just too unique of a document to become a sound others would go to build on.

I feel like a real music writer now. That’s why we’re still reading about The Shape of Punk to Come, writing about it is a minor rite of passage.

– Jayson


1 Comment so far
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While I will agree with your statements to a certain point, the album has some of the best drum work on a “punk” album. That and a lot of bands today do sound like a watered down version of Refused. They were the first, but the first to what? Screaming about the government with loud guitars and somewhat boring hooks? If you’re into that, then Refused is a great choice. If not, meh.

Comment by Eli Gundry

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