hat did you like most about Refused? Was it the “yeah”-infected socialism? The wild, acrobatic hardcore? The convention defying eclecticism and vision of The Shape of Punk to Come? Whatever the cause of your respect, it is justified. Shape was a masterwork -- creatively aggressive, aggressively creative -- and showed a band honing their craft to a point beyond logic. When the band broke up shortly after the album’s completion, hearts broke, heads shook and questions abounded: Why? Why now? What next? For Refused mouthpiece Denis Lyxzen, “what next” turned out to be the (International) Noise Conspiracy, the commie-mod-garage quintet that is still the only Swedish rock ‘n’ roll band worth anyone’s time. While rocking, rewarding and fun, T(I)NC lacks the jaggedness, the adventure and the breadth of Refused’s finest work. To rediscover those qualities, you must immerse yourself in Text.
A bizarre construction of heavy dub, soul, fractured hardcore and apocalyptic poetry, Text is the first opportunity anyone’s had to peer into the minds of the other three members of Refused, and it’s a crime that it’s taken this long to happen. Text will not be considered by anyone to be Shape II -- it’s meandering and way too weird -- but it is a definite continuation of the talent and creativity that fuelled the Refused inferno.
Any album that begins with a cappella hardcore and ends with a dubbed-out history of torture deserves to be heard at least once; but you can count on subsequent listens. A lot of them. To thoroughly understand and appreciate everything that happens over the course of Text’s 65 minutes, expect to spend a lot of time with the album -- many of the songs are exceptionally long and winding experiments -- but you can consider that time wisely invested; there isn’t a single experiment that fails. The unaccompanied screaming that begins the album, “Requiem For Ernst Hugo (1928-1998)” might seem overbearing if it was sung in English, but bellowed Swedish and harshly rolled r’s give the piece a throat-shredding exoticism. The eleven minutes of “Sound is Compressed: words rebel and hiss” are filled with soulful, choir-lifted reggae, minimalist ambiance and two different doses of dub -- one dark and ominous, the other a startling vamp of sax-and-sludge. “Those kids are gone” is acoustic folk pop piped through a severely overloaded microphone and choked by tape hiss. Lifted by driving, barely audible drums, “Those kids” is the kind of joyous, melodic and moving track Green Day and Blink-182 stumble over when trying to prove they’ve grown up.
While two of the remaining tracks do incorporate Refused’s hardcore roar -- “We have explosives - Schmexplosives?” is explosive, battering prog-punk, “The Huntsville Treaty” is a cacophonous, screaming dirge -- it is the three dub tracks that not only account for the album’s considerable length, they also account for its astounding weirdness. “1ere tableau: Du sable”, “2eme tableau: Du soleil” and “3eme tableau: Du chemin”, spread out over the course of the album, comprise 36 minutes of spoken word ramblings about death, torture, war and cruelty over beds of deep, spaced-out dub, but that dub is forever changing, making each track as riveting as it is baffling. “1ere tableau”’s grooves morph from grating and cold to dark and hypnotic to guitar-reliant and sad. The dub of “2eme tableau” is sparse and jazz-influenced, led by clarinet and stand up bass. “3eme tableau” is by far the bleakest of the three, a drifting, lonely, treble-heavy space rock dub that ends the album with the question, “So is this the way it’s going to be now?” Hopefully.
Text is not the work of dejected musicians picking up the pieces and trying to move on; it’s fully realized art put forth by three guys who clearly know the extent of their skills and the magic they’re capable of conjuring up. Bizarre in all the right ways, naturally eclectic, assertive without berating you, Text is fantastic.
Once a song, once a lament, “Refused is fucking dead” is finally a sigh.
Reviewed by: Clay Jarvis
Reviewed on: 2003-09-01