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Refused | Refused Are Fucking Dead | review | dvd | Lollipop
Refused Are Fucking Dead
by Tim Den
There's a reason why this film is titled as such and not as a "release" from "the band" Refused. Refused Are Fucking Dead is a documentary in the vein of Meeting People is Easy, in that it's not a "band DVD" but rather an outsider's telling of the story. Okay, in this case, not exactly an outsider - Kristofer Steen was one of the guitarists - but it's still a narrative as if told by a third party. In it, the main players of Refused tell tales of their early history and three live songs showcase this band's unparalleled power, but the focus stays on the last heartbreaking year of their existence. Through an unmistakably European "indie" sense of camera work, still shots, and imagery, Refused Are Fucking Dead moves and feels like an art house movie about relationships rather than music. And it triumphs on every level. Because, in the end, what makes bands and their music immortal are the people involved, the lives they lead, and how they effected the world. This film allows you to delve into the inner workings of Refused - albeit via the members' often philosophically vague and cryptic reflections - and witness the story of not only a revolutionary band, but of four individuals whose struggles are worth documenting.
Anyone who's ever produced a musical work worthy of pride and confidence can attest to the emotional exhaustion that comes with such a feat. Not to mention the discouraging sense of defeat when outside reception is less than expected. Refused took their share of beatings as they wrote, recorded, and toured behind their swansong, The Shape of Punk to Come, thoroughly destroying themselves for the sake of art. It's a scenario on repeat all across the world in indie music circles. It's relatable and heart-wrenching, especially considering we know just what a masterpiece the band killed themselves to put out. As you watch, the band hurl themselves and thrash about onstage, and it's almost as if they're wrestling invisible demons. This music they've created allows them to exorcise inner turmoil during performances, but the creative process that bore these same sounds are what planted the plagues within the creators. It's a vicious circle that only has one outcome: Implosion. The rhythm so ferocious, the passion so orgasmic, it's only a matter of time before the train derails. And as the bio states, Refused hung on and rushed "like mad dogs to meet with their inevitable doom." Tragic? Romantic? Triumphant? Revolutionary? All of the above, just like their music.
The additional live footage, while mediocre in quality, really shows the band at their rawest. Drummer David Sandström and Steen's telepathic communication at the beginning of "The Deadly Rhythm," vocalist Dennis Lyxzén splitting his head open while singing (ironically) "Refused Are Fucking Dead," and particularly Sandström taking his frustrations (at the live sound? The gear? His band members?) out on his set. As if Refused's songs and insane live shows aren't enough to make every cell in your body explode, watching Sandström bash his fist, sticks, and head (!) into his drumset sets what's left of your remains on fire with pure adrenaline. It's one of the purest moments of emotional expression I've ever witnessed.