In 1998, the Swedish punk band Refused released an album so influential that its fans and bands alike would guide the Invisible Hand of fandom in an obsequious hand-shaking position begging and hoping for the reunion(s) they would eventually get.
The title itself “The Shape of Punk to Come: A Chimerical Bombination of 12 Bursts” displayed the same clairvoyance that Wu-Tang’s “Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers)” and Ornette Coleman’s “The Shape of Jazz to Come” had done years before they had.
The music is a cohesion of originality and musical inspirations that could possibly summon jam sessions that Coleman influenced with songs like, “Deadly Rhythm,” featuring walking bass lines and swinging drum fills in addition to phrases with driving distorted guitar and brash vocals.
Lyrically, singer Dennis Lyxzén provides a narrative that can read as a form of activism speaking out against a system that perpetuates income and wealth inequality, or our fetishization of commodities.
But, it also reads as poetry that can be appreciated by those who do not even agree with some of the ideas touched upon.
And even if there are those that disagree with ideas such as capitalism being a form of organized crime or that industry is distracting us from the potential we have as sociological entrepreneurs, Lyxzén’s voice is potent as it screams passionately all while capable of breaking up any nonsense of monotony with harmonious melodies.
Lyxzén’s voice does not stand alone though as the instrumentation and composition are intricate, powerful, and reaches far beyond any atmospheric perception that would dare reduce the genres of punk and hardcore to any specific sound or formulaic pattern.
Furthermore, seldom can album artwork strike you as the imagery featured on this album does. The typography, presentation of band members and title, and pictures introduce the content, convey the message, and could be applicable to any medium of art.
A double take is required and thoughts are provoked whether taken at a glance in a record shop or studying it for the one-hundredth time.
Refused had reached some MTV exposure with a video for the song, “New Noise,” but the band stopped performing and playing together shortly after the release of “The Shape of Punk to Come.”