Refused, although one of the most important punk groups of the '90s, was far from original. The Swedish quintet swiped caterwauls from Fugazi, posture from Rage Against the Machine, rhetoric from Nation of Ulysses and song titles from Born Against. Still, the resultant clusterfuck turned out to be vital and distinct in and of itself -- which is way more than can be said of Dead Rhythm Machine, the debut by Atlanta's The Letters Organize. In fact, there's very little to say about the disc at all; simply put, it's a wholly soulless simulacrum of Refused's 1998 masterwork, The Shape of Punk to Come, a title that Letters has taken way too literally. Likewise, Dead Rhythm Machine is exactly what its name implies: the robotic echo of lifeless imaginations, an automatically generated response to an infinitely more kinetic and compelling band. Or, as Refused's Dennis Lyxzen once so succinctly screamed, "Good frames won't save bad paintings."
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