Refused + OFF! at Congress Theater | Concert preview
Reunited Swedes and L.A. vets reassess the state of punk.
One good thing about playing in a punk band: Garner enough popularity and your fanbase can be an endless revolving door of adolescents. Not to say that Refused hasn’t retained any of its original following, but like recently reunited post-hardcore act At the Drive-In, the Swedish outfit has had more than enough time to let its legend marinate in the minds of new listeners.
Since the band’s 1998 breakup, the Friday Night Lights soundtrack turned “New Noise” into a jock anthem, a new classic for younger generations. YouTube videos of the first reunion show in Atlanta have surfaced, featuring legions of teenagers moshing and screaming along with Dennis Lyxzén’s lyrics. The group’s timing couldn’t be better.
Fourteen years is a long time to be out of the game, longer than many of this year’s surprise reunions took to cash in on their legacy (excluding Sabbath). But especially for a band that once called a reunion out of the question, there’s a sense of poignancy to this particular reconciliation. The Shape of Punk to Come from 1998 gave birth to a new wave of post-hardcore, which tragically derailed into emo, and then screamo, and now we’re in a backlash era of neutered indie-rock and EDM. (I guarantee Skrillex still has his Shape of Punk CD somewhere.)
Perhaps the Swedes are more driven to rectify the shape of punk now than profit on post-breakup success. Never without an agenda, the band was astute in selecting L.A. hardcore classicist OFF! as support. At last year’s Pitchfork Music Festival, you could feel frontman Keith Morris’s rage toward the saturated state of alternative music. Powers combined, can Refused and OFF! topple the softened throne of rock? The answer is yet to come.