REVIEW: Refused – “Françafrique”
by Chad Jewett
On “Elektra”, our first listen from Freedom, the forthcoming reunion LP from Swedish abstract-hardcore legends Refused, a refrain like “Nothing has changed” seemed designed both as a reminder of the band’s sheer, blistering sonic force, and the woeful reality of economic inequity and social injustice that the band railed against so movingly on 1998’s essential The Shape Of Punk To Come. Now, with “Françafrique”, the band has specific examples in mind – namely, the lingering effects of colonialism and the West’s continuing exploitation of developing nations, specifically France’s abuse of the Congo (“The Congo Basin’s bleeding still / Genocide was Paris’ will). Dennis Lyxzén continues to be a nimble communicator, exploring his topic with precision and a pointed, sardonic bite. “Françafrique” might just be the most specific Refused has ever gotten about the threats of capital run rampant that have been their chief theme.
The music matches Lyxzén’s careful balance of subtlety and bombast. David Sandström, who continues to be one of the greater punk drummers of all time, lends a sinewy stomp to the track’s soul-punk sizzle (Refused have never sounded closer to their spiritual forebears in The Nation Of Ulysses) as the song slowly cooks its way from a breathy set of verses and choruses to precisely the fiery coda you’d expect (and likely showed up for). Funkier and even more willing to push at the far edges of hardcore’s lexicon than the already rich Shape Of Punk (here Shape’s electro and jazz is swapped out for Muscle Shoals horns and jagged R&B), “Françafrique” further underlines that Freedom just might end up being Refused’s Sandinista! – an album with a flexible, imaginative ear and a committed attention to the world we live in.