June 4, 2006

Review: Refused | Refused Are F*cking Dead DVD

Refused -- Refused Are F*cking DeadRefused Are F*cking Dead is an overly romanticized but attractively rendered chronicle of the demise of Sweden's most exciting and most widely known hardcore act, Refused. The film suffers from the narration of the unidentified American narrator, whose curiously unqualified insights still succeed in poignantly conveying the emotional weight of watching the downfall of one's heroes of late adolescence, the resultant decathection and gained perspective. And unfortunately, although this is likely because such footage does not exist, the film is more concerned with that downfall than it is with the creation of the band's landmark swan song, 1998's cataclysmic The Shape Of Punk To Come. Instead the film is heavily based on reflective interviews from the band members discussing the band's final tour, an ultimately aborted and disappointing trek through some of the lowest levels of the American underground.

Despite the band's retrospective confessions of being under-rehearsed and completely uninspired, the band's technical skill and fiery political rhetoric still shine brightly on the DVD's live performances. However, a substantial portion of the DVD's live run-through of the aforementioned album is shot with a video camera situated near the drum kit and behind the house PA, meaning almost all of the vocals are lost to posterity, as is the band's superhero stage posturing. The high point of the live performances is the punishing rendition of "New Noise," one of the few moments on the disc when the band undeniably assumes its legendary status and owns the crowd. The clip ends with drummer David Sandstrom passionately sucker-punching his drums. The movie is not all emotional drama: In the live clip for the DVD's title track, singer Dennis Lyxzen's forehead is torn open by the head stock of a swinging guitar, and he is ushered, bloodied and dazed, from the tiny stage. It's hard to watch. Like the death arc of the band it captures, Refused Are F*cking Dead sinks under its own weight, but paradoxically still serves a crucial role as one of few video documents of one of the most important bands Sweden will ever produce.

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