52 IN 52
The 52 Albums that define my love for music
Week 41/Album 41
Who: Refused - "Songs to fan the flame of discontent"
When: Spring 1996
Why: In 1996, anything that Victory Records put out, I was buying. They were putting out amazing records at the time. Bands like Guilt, Deadguy, Strife, Bloodlet and Snapcase were all putting out some of the best hardcore records and I was gobbling them all up. Then they started promoting this band called Refused from Sweden. The promotional poster didnt do much for the band, and the only music anyone had heard from them was some older records they had done in Sweden. Nothing that would blow your mind.
Then, it happened.
I was working at a summer camp in Akron, and once a week I had a night to go out and see my friends back home. Well, one night in July I met up with some of the guys in the band I was in and we headed to the Agora to see Snapcase. The show was supposed to be in the smaller ballroom, but it was moved to the extremely large theater for some reason. There was probably 100 people there. The first band (whom I still don't remember who it was) ended, and up next was this band Refused. As they were setting up, watching them I had no idea what to expect. The hardcore scene at the time was all camouflage/baggy pants and nikes. These guys had on button down shirts and black beatles-ish haircuts. They looked out of place. My buddies and I were in the front. The place was bare, and then a sample started......and then a snare roll.....
My jaw hit the floor.
For the next 30 min or so I couldn't move. I was frozen in amazement. I had never seen so much intensity, and just over all passion before. Refused made the other hardcore bands I had seen look like basic rock bands. They threw their guitars around, their drummer beat the ever loving shit out of his drums, and Dennis screamed at us like we were doing something wrong. They all screamed. They were insane and I loved every second of it. It was the best performance I had ever seen.
They finished up, and Snapcase played a great set but following Refused was something I wouldn't ever want to do. They won every single person in that crowd over that night. Its all that my friends and I could talk about. They had sold out of CDs at the time too, so I had to wait to listen to these songs again. The next day, I had an hour break so I drove 30 min to Perry's Rock Pile, bought the CD, and made it back just in time. Playing the record was great, but it was nothing compared to what I had just saw the night before.
Refused went on to become one of the most influential hardcore bands of all time. Their next record "The Shape of Punk to come" is on most "best of" lists. They were groundbreaking musicians. They pushed themselves in every way musically. Then at the peak of their success, they stopped.
In 2012 they reunited for the first time in 15 years and played a handful of festivals and shows, but I didn't go. Not because I didn't want to, because I did, but because I didn't want to taint the memory of the Refused that I have. Seeing them now, wouldn't hold up to what I saw back in 1996. Not even close.
My love for Refused is not hidden. In 2011 a couple friends and I decided to do a tribute band and I found a new respect for how good of musicians they all are. The drum beats on some of their songs are some of the hardest beats I have ever played. They're innovative and different, while still maintaining the "hardcore" brand.
I managed to pull myself together for a brief moment to snap a picture of them that night mid-set. It really doesn't do them justice, but you can get the idea of how the show was. You can see the guitar player mid-stomp, and that's a great representation of how the intensity level was. It was their only time in Cleveland. As a hardcore (and music in general) fan I consider myself very lucky to have seen them at this stage. I saw lightning in a bottle, from Sweden.