Refused and OFF! at the Congress Theater | Review and photos
A quote from from Umeå, Sweden anti-heroes Refused's last manifesto, "Refused are Fucking Dead": "This is the last that we have to say about it, WE WILL NOT GIVE INTERVIEWS TO STUPID REPORTERS who still haven't got anything of what we are all about, we will never play again and we will never try to glorify or celebrate what was." Oops. One doesn't have to be a stupid reporter to find the glaring inconsistency in this reunion scenario.
More than ten years later, those of us whose hearts bled alongside Refused in its heyday giggle at that level of extremism—even dynamo vocalist Dennis Lyxzén, perhaps the most vivacious and polarizing frontman in all of '90s hardcore. At tonight's show he explains that in early '90s Sweden he was a young anarchist against everything—no really, everything. And today, he has trouble with the notion of anything in early '90s Sweden being that bad. But don't be fooled by this new tone. Immediately following that confession of youth-fueled naivety, the band's anti-establishment crusade kicks back in. "When we got the band back together and I was reading the lyrics to the songs, I didn't know how we would play them again," explains Lyxzén. "But now in 2012, things are that fucked up and these songs are more important than ever!" Naturally, this was met with overwhelming fist thrusting and growls of approval from a packed ballroom filled with dudes in black t-shirts, camo and Spock haircuts—a hearty mix of Gen Xers on a nostalgia trip and Gen Y first-timers. There were those who have clearly moved on, such as the dudes in front of me swapping photos of their kids playing in their suburban backyards. And there were those who clearly haven't: OFF! frontman Keith Morris, for example.
The former Black Flag singer joining Refused onstage for a pair of Black Flag scream-alongs (including "Nervous Breakdown") was the highlight of the evening for many, including Lyxzén. In a vest, second-skin pants and loads of slinky stage moves, the skinny Swede still recalls all the swagger and attitude of a '70s Mick Jagger. The band is as captivating as ever, thrashing and pounding with a vengeance through bursts of white light and fog. "The last time we were here we played a few blocks up at a place called the Fireside Bowl. We were a DIY punk band struggling with our popularity in Sweden and playing for 200 people and I wrote a song about it," the screamer adds before launching into "Summer Holidays Vs. Punk Routine" from seminal record The Shape of Punk to Come. From the energy to the anecdotes and Lyxzén standing atop groups of sweaty palms in the pit, the show did not disappoint. Regardless of the motivation for the second coming of Refused, for most of us, a trip into the anti-boredom ethos they represent is good for the soul—particularly for those who were there for round one.