Refused – Refused Are F*cking Dead (DVD)
Could there have been a more romantic ending to the startling career of Refused than when three U.S. policemen forced their way through a packed crowd to cut the power on their last ever show? The band, warned about the impending sealing of their collective fate, launch into what they all know will be their final song together, 'Rather Be Dead', when they're abruptly closed down by the faceless, hackneyed figures of authority, perfectly exemplifying the repression the band has always fought against. Instead of being deflated the kids in the audience finish the song for them, screaming the "But I'd Rather Be Alive" coda long into the night. Surely this is the kind of tragically apt ending that even the finest writers in Hollywood would struggle to pen.
As always with Refused however, everything is not as it seems. In this beautifully crafted documentary, Refused guitarist Kristofer Steen retraces the last steps of the iconic Swedes, and we soon discover that there was nothing special in the air that night, and instead of the cops dealing a demoralizing final blow to the group, drummer David Sandström reveals that he "felt an affinity with them. It was like they came to take care of us... I could have kissed them'".
Confused? You're not alone. As guitarist Jon Brännström elaborates, Refused were always a unique act riddled by a "bunch of contradictions", a band with an understandable arrogance about them, who after spending months writing and recording their astounding swansong release The Shape of Punk To Come, were mortified to discover that their live show just couldn't compare. Choosing to not even rehearse before what was predetermined to be their final tour, according to Sandström "[the] first three shows were catastrophic, devastating to us emotionally... I think we felt that we had reached a higher level. It doesn't matter what we do. It will be amazing anyway", continues Brännström "It felt cheap to play punk clubs and be a punk band again... I felt like we deserved better". Throughout its 80 minute running time, Refused Are F*cking Dead delights in frequenting us with such insightful revelations.
With inevitable talk of a reunion quickly rebuked these past weeks, Refused Are F*cking Dead will also be the nearest we'll ever get to experiencing the Refused live experience again. Drawn from a variety of fan footage, we get, amongst other delights, an entire run through of The Shape of Punk To Come, which veers from poor quality recordings which oddly still manage to gleam with a ramshackle charm to some truly breathtaking performances.
This, the so called 'Chinese Democracy' of punk rock could have easily been a colossal let down, years in the making, seemingly perpetually delayed. On the contrary Refused Are F*cking Dead is a quite exceptional piece of filmmaking that is far removed from any musical DVD you may have seen before and is a fitting way to mark the end of a vital legacy.
Perhaps the most poignant epitaph of all on the DVD comes as it should do, courtesy of a fan at its close. Articulating how invigorated he felt after watching the last show, he discusses how he made his friends stop their car on their journey home to insist that they could never lay down and simply let this kind of tragedy happen again, before finally concluding "That's what this is about, and it's for you if that's what you want. Be creative, be alive, share every gift and every passion you have to offer, we all need everything we can get."
In one word: Awesome.