Review Summary: A stripped down Refused, but one without an identity.
What can be said about Refused that hasn't been said already? Forward-thinkers? Idealists? Pretentious? Weirdos? Egotistical? That may all be true, since it’s certainly undeniable that they were politically charged with strong leftism, out to please themselves, and acted preachy on occasion. But more than anything, they backed it all up with their music. They only released three albums and six EPs, all of which are at the very least passable. But again, it's quite likely they went about their whole career with no audience in mind. In lead singer Dennis Lyxzen's words, “Capitalism is in fact organized crime, and we’re all the victims”. Far to the left indeed, but politics and lifestyle aside, they had plenty of fantastic music to back up what some would consider egoism. Now, by the time their second effort Songs to Fan the Flames of Discontent
had come out, they had truly found their own sound. Their legendary final effort, The Shape of Punk to Come
, is known for it’s furious blend of hardcore, jazz, and electronica. This may have sounded strange and even bad in formula, but they somehow made it work. But, a band's debut generally falls into two categories. They either have an original sound down almost one hundred percent, or they have an underdeveloped first taste full of their influences more than anything. Refused's debut is just that, an album that certainly shows their favorite bands in a mixing pot.
Perhaps the most noticeable difference on first listen will be the vocals. After this came out, Dennis adopted a much different vocal approach by screaming his vocals instead of shouting the way he does on this record. He mostly resembles a typical hardcore vocalist of his time, but he actually sings on occasion and even does some spoken material similar to that of The Shape of Punk to Come
. Lyrically he seems to be at a basic level with some intricacies, such as witty lines and occasionally preachy ideas, but it works for the most part. The instrumental section shows their love for hardcore as well as metal, with tempos usually being in the middle instead of blisteringly fast like countless other punk bands. This could best be described as a fusion of thrash and hardcore, hence the commonly applied “thrashcore” term on this release, but the experimental edge they became known for is not here. They had yet to blend wildly different genres such as jazz together with punk, but they don’t really stumble around on this record with experimental duds or anything along those lines. They mostly just stay on the path of blending thrash and hardcore together, but this results in a sense of sameness that can get tedious after a while. Every song has shouted vocals, heavy riffs that fuse hardcore and metal together, and an overall aggressive nature to everything.
The supposedly aggressive nature though, could this be applied to just about all of their music? Most likely yes, but the main thing problem that hinders this LP is actually that. There never seems to be a quiet transition or anything like that, it's all just straightforward hardcore. It should be expected that a band be very raw and immature with their sound in the beginning, but this really only hurts the album since it just makes their other records seem much better in comparison. The sound they were using was being done by plenty of other punk and metal bands, and the lack of variety doesn't help either. Sometimes they will put an interesting twist on things with minor musical intricacies or an interesting vocal delivery, but dare I say it; they seem to be playing it safe.
If you’re simply interested in the evolution of Refused, this will be at the very least an interesting starting point for one of punk rock’s most important bands. The influences are certainly noticeable, and the lack of variety is definitely a downside; but, at the end of the day This Just Might Be
is a solid enough debut for the band. The production is appropriately lo-fi, the mood is always aggressive, and the band doesn't quite know what sound they’re going for. All they really have down is a good blend of thrash and hardcore, but incredibly underwhelming and generic for a band that would go on to craft one of punk’s well renowned masterpieces.