Considering 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue’s current occupants, you’d think more bands would be releasing songs expostulating Tweeter-in-Chief Donald Trump’s polarizing policies. Instead, musicians rant on social media, rarely infusing politics into their lyrics. Good thing there’s Swedish hardcore-punk progenitors Refused out there, still stirring the pot. On War Music, their upcoming fifth full-length, Refused’s message is direct: Wake the fuck up, people!
“We’re a band that talks about politics,” frontman Dennis Lyxzén tells SPIN. He notes the themes on War Music shouldn’t surprise fans of their watershed third LP, The Shape of Punk to Come: A Chimerical Bombination in 12 Bursts, which begins with the lyrics, “I got a bone to pick with capitalism / And a few to break.”
“That has been our M.O. from day one as a band, coming from a punk and hardcore background,” he says; The Shape of Punk to Come was released in the fall of 1998—weeks before Refused called it quits. “We felt that, now, more than ever, was a time for us to show people our roots and let them know what we think about the world we live in today. It was something we felt we should do and needed to do.”
An example of that is reflected in War Music’s “Economy of Death,” which Refused is sharing exclusively with SPIN first. The lyrics include: “The working class is betrayed while capitalists do the bidding / Your occupation becomes that you die for a living / You’re so fucked / Economy of death restricts all terror to them and us / While bombs and walls are built self governments left in the dust.”
War Music, the band’s second album since ending their 14-year hiatus in 2012, is a vehement, pissed-off collection of 10 unpredictable yet catchy tracks loaded with heavy riffs, memorable hooks, and Lyxzén’s feel-my-fury vocals. The frantic record has the pacing of a runaway train, and on the track “Turn the Cross,” listen closely for the guest pipes of the Hives’ Pelle Almqvist, Lyxzén’s longtime friend.
“We always want to be … untypical,” Lyxzén tells SPIN. “We never set out to concoct an unpredictable sound. It was never deliberate. We set out to create music—good music—with twists and turns. People have called us ‘experimental,’ but that has never been our agenda. It’s all about the art and following the music and staying true to your ideals. With War Music, we agreed to just make 34 minutes of pure, raw, in-your-face music.”
Lyxzén continues: “At the end of the day, you create the art that satisfies you. If you’re lucky, people will get it and hang out with you. The minute you start catering to other people’s ideas of what you are, that’s called ‘selling out.’”