Refused - The Shape of Punk to Come [reissue] (Cover Artwork)


The Shape of Punk to Come [reissue] (2004)

Burning Heart

The saying is something like, "If it isn't broken, then don't fix it." When I heard that "The Shape of Punk to Come" was heading back to the studio for a second time around, I was not sure if I was too excited about that. I am one of the appreciators of this album and I regard it as one of the best albums ever created. Refused and company were ahead of their time when they said it and their untimely end would prove that no one would every come close to replicating it. Where as many people refuse to admit that this "non-punk" influenced the music they listen to in any fashion, I can still see little touches in many bands that recall this album. So here I am sitting here thinking that this chimerical bombination of twelve bursts is practically the second coming. Any negative change would be considered blasphemy, so the hopes seemed impossibly high for this album to be any form of success. The advertisement for the other remastered albums inside calls it "A punkrock odyssey through shit and failure." Rather sure of themselves they are…

The changes start rather immediately. The first line of the album is no longer "I've got a bone to pick with capitalism," but is now, "Grab us by the throat and shake the life away." Hearing this difference was disconcerting and caught me off guard, and would be the set reaction for every change that was made. From the start however, everything is much clearer. Every guitar line, every cymbal hit, every single one of Dennis's shrieks, it has all been touched up and cleaned up. The full effect of the 5.1 comes experienced as "Let's take the first bus out of here" literally echoes all around your head, and it was at this point that I realized that this was the way the album was truly meant to be listened to.

The genius of the touch up can be heard right at the beginning of "Liberation Frequency." I for one did not know that there are actually two little guitar lines strumming along, one being much quieter than the other. However, with the clean up done, it is a lot more noticeable. This is what makes the remastering a complete success. I always knew that "The Shape of Punk to Come" was a rather complex and pretentious album, but on the CD version, a lot of it just gets buried underneath its own distortion and heaviness. Not this time around, for the result of the extra studio work put in to cleaning it up showcases the skills of all the musicians even more. Everything is heard and nothing drowns anything out (except for a few times when Dennis' vocals are a bit too loud for comfort). But it is these little clean ups done that makes it so great. I never knew that in the stand up bass breakdown on "The Deadly Rhythm" (actually, I don't know if they added this effect or not) there was the background noise of a little jazz club crowd, clapping at the very end. It is these little tweaks that make listening to this album for the first time an experience. I constantly found myself shocked at first, but then after the change sunk in, pleasantly surprised.

Aside from "Brutish Pome #5" which got a heavy, yet understandably easier makeover, the huge shock of the album is the "Refused Are Fuckin' Dead." We all remember the remix put out on "The New Noise Theology EP", so I was wondering exactly what they were going to call this song, because about halfway through, it completely breaks down into a mix of that old remix with some new little touches thrown in. "The Refused Are Fuckin' Dead .5 remix?" It's a bit crazy sounding with all the new electronics thrown in, but after it is all over, the song still feels familiar.

This is the standard aftertaste of every change that was made. It all still feels familiar; the original album just seems like a teaser now. It almost seems like this was the plan all along, that the boys of Refused just knew that they were going to release the album in this fashion eventually. It makes complete use of all the speakers, and not in a way that is overbearing at all. An incredibly pretentious album gets an incredibly pretentious makeover. The shoes still fit on the album. So after I have sat here and converted myself to a frighteningly devoted follower of a defunct band, there has to be something wrong with the album. The only thing that I can think of would be that to truly experience the release the way it was meant would require a lot of electronics surrounding you head. That is quite true, but I also listened to the album on my own crappy two speakers hooked up to my computer, and it still sounds fantastic. Not as cool, but I still will listen to this version of it over the original. So pretty much the only down side I can see to the whole release is that DVD players in cars are still semi-expensive (I think, I don't look at their prices) and so I cannot blast revolution in the new fashion as I drive down the streets of America suburbia like I want to.

Other than that, nothing is wrong at all. This is one of the best albums ever made even better. And for those that have the equipment to truly experience 5.1 digital surround sound, do not even hesitate. Go buy this album now! But when it is all said and done, the best part of it isn't even on the actual release. It's the little flyer advertising all the new releases, as well as a picture of an all black DVD that made me drool continuously for over fifteen minutes. "The Refused Are Fucking Dead DVD – Refused are dead. They spent the last year in existence touring godforsaken hellholes scattered around the western world. This is their testament." What a bunch of loveable cocky bastards…