Question of the Week

QUESTION OF THE WEEK: TO REFUSE OR NOT TO REFUSE REFUSED

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Welcome to the return of MetalSucks Question Of The Week, a (sorta) weekly survey of our staff on a recent hot-button issue that’s rocking our metal planet.

Fearless. Controversial. Half-baked. We give it to you straight every Friday afternoon. Okay not that straight. Here’s this week’s topic:

Inspired by Terror frontman Scott Vogel’s slamming of reunited Refused as a “fake shell” in the face of wildly positive fan and media reaction to recent Refused shows, we asked our writers the following question:

THE REFUSED REUNION ISN’T BULLSHIT … IS IT?

Wat u think? The MS staff’s answers after the jump!

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My feelings toward REFUSED and their music can be summed up as “extremely indifferent.” I never really got into them back in the day, because they were just a slightly above-average Victorycore band that turned into a dull rock n roll band with an appeal mostly based on the way they dressed and their attractive singer. Basically, they were the BRING THE HORIZON or maybe PIERCE THE VEIL of their day: solid but unremarkable musicians whose image put them over the top. There’s nothing wrong with that, but it certainly doesn’t explain why the slightest suggestion that they weren’t ‘seminal, groundbreaking innovators’ provokes absolutely massive butthurt from their legions of dickriders. It was baffling to me why this band had such a passionate fanbase in 2012, especially when they weren’t all that special to begin with. Imagine traveling to 2022 and reading that the recently-reunited TRIVIUM or BULLET FOR MY VALENTINE were selling out five nights in NYC and had become critical darlings, then you’ll know how I feel about the REFUSED hype — “Really?? People are jizzing over THAT band?!”
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Then I realized it couldn’t be more simple. There is nothing special about REFUSED, this is just another example of how it takes an eternity for unsophisticated people with entry-level taste to catch on to things that those of us with more refined tastes got over a decade ago. It’s the same reason you see people gushing about seeing GORGUTS, DYING FETUS, and other death metal bands I got bored of in 1999 instead of being excited about the zillions of awesome new bands: The tastes of most music consumers are years behind innovators like me. I always knew that I was ahead of the curve, able to spot The Next Big Thing before just about anybody else, but I didn’t realize I was THIS advanced. I can’t wait until 2027, when you start to get into some of the great stuff that came out in 2012!

If you like REFUSED that’s fine by me, just understand that you are no different from the clueless thritysomethings who go to the county fair, wash their funnel cake down with a Miller Lite, and reminisce as they watch SUGAR RAY go through the motions on stage. You are entry-level.

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I don’t listen to Refused or know anything about them, so I have no opinions about their situation. I think the whole “reunion” thing can go either way. Some come from their heart and yield amazing results (Amebix, Carcass, Autopsy, COC, Antisect), but others seem like little more than cash grabs (I won’t name names, but I’m still unimpressed with those $60 Emperor tickets from their first and “only” round of US dates … that were swiftly followed by a second round less than a year later. 17-year-old me is still bitter). The proof is in the pudding.
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If bands actually stuck to their Never Going To Reunite rule, there’d be no shows to go to ever. But I can’t say if Refused’s return was a good or bad move yet; I’m seeing them in July so it really depends on that show. If they play their hearts out and put on an excellent performance, then who cares if a reunion goes against what they stand for? A good show is a good show. Fans get to hear the songs they love and the band gets to earn money. That’s how it works. If Refused’s performance is lackluster and their personal issues get in the way, then yeah, they probably shouldn’t have stayed dead. But in the end, we should really care about the music more than the bullshit platforms people/bands stand for.
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It might be bullshitty, but not for any of Scott Vogel’s spaz reasons. He talks like Refused owes back dues to the hardcore scene, but really he communicates a fear of competing with Refused for ticket sales and fan loyalty. And that part is understandable. I mean, imagine if you spent a decade enduring/enjoying your hot gf (Terror’s big, hard-won fan base), only to lose her the instant that some pretentious ex-boyfriend breezes back into town from Sweden (Refused). I’d be stabby as fuck, too, but I’d keep my mouth shut and crank up the charm. Vogel does neither, and his buttmadness mostly makes him sound like a panicky douche: “Okay fine Mandi, go suck his ligonberry-scented dick if you wanna be an Ikea retard! It’s up to you! Bork-bork-bork!” Nah. Just do you, Terror. Refused will be gone again in a few weeks.
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I never listened to Refused for their devotion to some ill-defined hardcore ethos. Their music — at least as of The Shape of Punk to Come — was about expansion and creativity, not propping up hardcore as a genre or adhering to its traditions. So while I can certainly see where Scott Vogel is coming from, I think his arguments don’t hold a lot of water. Music and art each become a commodity as soon as you start making money doing it. Does that mean that Refused’s intentions are any less pure because they’re making money playing it? I think not. And even if they are just cashing in, I’m totally fine with it as long as they’re still moved by their own music and are able to communicate that to their audiences. According to the live reports, they are. Refused’s music has inspired listeners long beyond the life of the band. I see no reason that we should be anything but grateful for their reunion. If it results in more great albums, à la Atheist, Cynic, and Autopsy reunions, then great. If it just results in a chance for me to see them play “Liberation Frequency” live, then that’s also great. I’ve been waiting for this reunion for 13 years. Bring it on.
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SAMMY O’HAGAR
The definition of selling out isn’t making money, but making money off contradicting your own ideals. So, in this case, about a band that once declared itself “fucking dead,” you could say that they’re selling out, and thus, that their reunion tour is bullshit. But once you move past a purely semantic level, is it really that bullshit? Is Refused putting out a new album with Scion? Are they touring with Five Finger Death Punch? Is their music being used for the opening of a CSI spinoff? No, they’re playing some shows (for fans that never got to see them the first times around) and they’re making some money doing it (which they didn’t get the chance to do the first times around). And the funny thing about selling out is that your young man’s ethos may clash with the eventual need to, you know, pay rent and feed yourself and your family and stuff. So Refused is going against saying almost 13 years ago that they would never get back together? That could technically be called bullshit, but really … who fucking cares? They’re out there making people happy and, from the sound of it, playing like they never broke up at all. Then again, maybe Scott Vogel is right to catch this breach of hardcore code; it’s not like Refused has ever strayed before by, like, allowing their music to appear in Criminal Minds or a Tony Hawk video ga — oh.

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VIC VAUGHN
Is this Refused reunion a bunch of bullshit? Fuck no! Refused’s post-break up “Final communiqué” was a passionate statement that showed a band at wit’s end. In their intense emotions, all involved thought that the project would never come back from the dead like some poor, apologetic zombie. But over 13 years, a lot of opinions can change. Members have grown and experienced success with other pursuits, and now they agree that the band had to get back together. Do they have a right to take something we love and exploit it for a paycheck? Well, maybe that’s just not an accurate appraisal here. And who cares if it is? Those five dudes created Refused, and they have the right to revive it to play huge pretentious indie rock festivals, do reunion tours with buses and accommodations the likes of which they never before dreamed of, and generally run the band’s name into the ground — because it is their brainchild. We might hate that Refused is back, but it’s not up to us.

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JUSTIN M. NORTON
Are people really worried about this? Band reunions are a part of life because the novelty factor alone guarantees interest. Most musicians eventually realize that working an job in IT or as a barista pretty much sucks compared to playing music live and making some cash doing it. It’s not like you commit treason by deciding to dust off your guitars. People have been “getting the band back together” since The Blues Brothers. Just a few examples: Autopsy, Brutal Truth, Celtic Frost, Saint Vitus, New Kids On The Block. Milli Vanilli reunited after being exposed as frauds! Of course, one of those dudes fatally OD’d later. Move on folks, nothing to see here …

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GARY SUAREZ
Whether or not you like Refused, what Scott Vogel is expressing is a core tenet of the, erm, core. Hardcore thrives as both a subgenre and a subculture largely due to long-held notions like “support the scene.” His band Terror, to their credit, spends each year touring aggressively, not unlike Black Flag in the ’80s. Their shows frequently feature local openers as well as moderately popular current bands that excite the community. When it comes to “community” in this scene, Vogel and Terror consistently put their money where their mouths are.

This context is necessary in order to understand why Vogel is so peeved by the Refused reunion and its accompanying tornado of hype and cash. The excitement behind their return might feel like a slap in the face to a band like Terror who have been “holding it down,” so to speak. Indeed, a nostalgic fever has swept through music culture (the critic Simon Reynolds has dubbed it “retromania”) and hardcore is as susceptible as any other genre. Plenty of young bands are making music that would appeal to Refused’s fanbase, yet their efforts are overshadowed by what amounts to a colossal cash-in. Refused are fucking dead, indeed.

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So concludes this very, very serious MetalSucks Question Of The Week. Are we way off? Are you sick of the words Refused, reunion, and retraction? Are you dying to comment the shit out of this issue below? See you back here next Friday!  

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