Jan 14, 2012

Refuse nirvana

Big news in Umeå this week, Refused will be reunited this summer! My youngest son, Trouble 2, comments that it’s too bad Nirvana can’t do the same.

Refused, one of the most (if not the most) important hardcore punk bands in the world started out in 1992 right here in my Swedish hometown. Their first EP, This is the New Deal, was released the year after, the same year as Nirvana released their last studio album In Utero. The very same year as I first sat my feet in Seattle.

The ragged wool sweaters, the knitted hats, the greasy hair, the flannel shirts, that all grey beige dress code of the city surprised me. I figured it was about the rain. In a place where it’s damp and wet nine months out of twelve and no one is carrying an umbrella you can’t really be to fuzzy about your hair, and the hazy drizzle kind of makes everything look beige-grey anyway, why don’t just go with the flow? And I sort of think it really has to do with the rain. But it has a name: Grunge. That first time though, I didn’t quite get it.

Nirvana was in company with Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, Alice in Chains: Seattle’s Big Four. The grunge culture, music and fashion, was spread all over the map and flannel and knitted hats popped up most everywhere. Curt Cobain became a myth, alive and dead. My second visit, May 1994, it had just happened, and my friend Lisa’s brother who was in the same class as Cobain in Aberdeen Washington when they grew up, just vaguely remembered a shy kid no one was paying much attention to. That was the end of Nirvana, as we new it, but just as the name says, Nirvana is an eternal condition.

So, did Refused play Seattle the famous US tour 1998 that ended with the group announcing themselves as Fucking Dead? I don’t know, I can’t find any notes about it, but they should have, Seattle and Refused would be just the perfect match. So, I’m not surprised noting Seattle Weekly (a free magazine) spreading the happy word this week that the Swedish punk band will be reunited later this year. And they will show up in US, at least at Coachella, the legendary festival in California.

While Seattle was grunge-ing in the mid nineties, Umeå was on the straight edge. The city was the hubbub for vegans and animal rights activists, and Refused was shouting out Marxism, veganism (if there is such a word) and straight edge; how to live without alcohol, drugs and probably E-numbers. A whole culture was formed around the hardcore scene, and bands were born and bred in every basement and garage. Refused released The Shape of Punk to Come in 1998, Kerrang!, the outstanding UK rock magazine appointed the album nr.13 among the most influential albums all time, and Umeå became the punk city of the world.

So, Nirvana can’t be brought to life. It was the parents of one of Trouble 2’s 2nd grade classmates who bought Curt Cobain’s house at Lake Washington when Courtney Love moved away from Seattle. His fans are sneaking around the tucked away place with their cameras, engraving their devotion on a bench nearby. The members of Refused have reached middle age, we were told the group was dead, but it turns out they will be rocking again! David Sandström, the drummer engine of the band, once told me all that energy pro animals and con a lot of things back then had mostly been testosterone, so what will they sing about 2012? What will they refuse?

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