Posted by: pop-break | April 27, 2012

Pop-Break Live: Refused at Terminal 5

don angelini debuts for pop-break with a review of the revered hardcore band…

The feeling was nothing but excitement looking at “REFUSED ARE FUCKING DEAD” with “ALIVE” written over said text on my pre-order t-shirt. Believe the hype. Umeå, Sweden’s quintessential post-hardcore outfit are back making their way through North America and Europe for those who missed out the first time around. Having only discovered Refused shortly after their disbandement in 1998, this was something special not only for me, but for all in attendance. As the 10’s continue to be quite a decade of hardcore and punk reunions, this is one that certainly did not disappoint so far.

Opening was Brooklyn, New York’s Cerebral Ballzy who in part to Williams Street, gave the band major exposure by releasing their 2011 self-titled album and providing commercial spots during Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim lineup. Upon hearing them through my own research, I was thoroughly unimpressed. However, I wasn’t all that surprised considering these are the same people that gave Odd Future their own show. But, I digress. Unfortunately, their live performance delivered an even lower caliber although the songs were short, fast, loud, and snotty which I enjoyed to a point. Don’t get me wrong, I have always loved the hardcore-punk sound they channel à la Bad Brains, Black Flag, and Suicidal Tendencies, but it lacked any collective energy to truly excite the crowd. It looked like they were simply going through the motions. Even the attitude felt forced, specifically frontman Honor Titus’ need to spike the microphone like a football after almost every song like a drunken toddler. It was like watching a hybrid gone wrong of H.R. of Bad Brains and Jason Shevchuk from his Kid Dynamite days vocally. I’ve seen bands play better sets of the same style for a lot less money and way more energy in sweaty New Brunswick basements. It was embarassing and I feel Cerebral Ballzy has gotten real lucky playing shows of this stature this early in the game. Maybe I don’t get the joke. Who knows…

Cerebral Ballzy

Upon the opening band ending, a steady and heavenly tone broadcasted through the house sound and the lights dimmed to a peaceful tan. The anticipation of Refused hitting the stage slowly built behind a black curtain. Minutes later, that same curtain dropped exposing a banner with the band’s name as the crowd continued to crescendo and decrescendo waiting patiently. That same tone continued for a few more minutes suddenly stopping as the venue went black. A sound clip played, the banner dropped, and Refused came out swinging. “I’ve got a bone to pick with capitalism…AND A FEW TO BREAK!” yelled frontman Dennis Lyxzén in unison with the Terminal 5 crowd during “Worms Of The Senses/Faculties Of The Skull” as the floor opened up and began to move. The band offered a fairly even numbers of selections from both Songs To Fan The Flames Of Discontent and The Shape Of Punk To Come including the danceable “Liberation Frequency” and such crushing ones as “Rather Be Dead”, “Coup D’État” and “Life Support Addiction”. All criticism aside regarding the money aspect of reuniting, it was clear that Refused still stands by the passion of their lyrics, the hardcore-punk bands that influenced them, and why they matter in 2012.

“We started reading the [bands’] lyrics and we thought about the politics” said Lyxzén before “Rather Be Dead” “and we didn’t really move. We just stayed, we still live up there [Umeå] but the politics and ideas took us from where we were as people and brought us to where we are today. One of the things about doing this whole reunion is the lyrics that we wrote 15, 16, 17 years ago. How are we going to stand behind that? Looking at the world today and looking at the lyrics that we wrote…they were naive, dystopic, and fuckin’ angry and they mean more today than they ever did.”

Before “Summerholidays Vs. Punkroutine”, Lyxzén also talked about the importance show of these Terminal 5 dates and one and the potential opener that almost happened.

“So, in 1996…we went on tour in America with a band called Snapcase. We actually tried to get them on the show but Jon [Salemi, guitarist] is a race car driver.”

The prospect of Snapcase opening for this show would have certainly sweetened the deal for me at least. I wish it did and judging by the cheers from the mere mention of their name, I clearly wasn’t alone on this.

“When we started this band back in the early 90’s, all the reviews in the Swedish fanzines…they talked about ‘There’s this band from the North in Sweden, they play New York Hardcore.’ We’re not from New York at all, we’re not tough or streetwise or anything. We’re just a bunch of hicks from the North” jokes Lyxzén. “But, we’re going to admit when we started this band…Gorilla Biscuits, Agnostic Front, Cro-Mags…that’s what we’re down with. So when we came to New York in 1996, we were super stoked…and we ended up on Long Island (crowd shares a laugh with Lyxzén) So I’m glad we finally made it and it was worth the wait. This is fucking awesome.”

Since their love for New York Hardcore runs deep, they brought out Lou Koller of Sick Of It All to cover their respective songs “It’s Clobberin’ Time” and “Injustice System” which were phenomenal renditions that electrified the crowd.

Refused’s encore began with “New Noise” in which the crowd exploded once again while at the same time signaling an epic beginning to the end of this momentous evening. During their final song “Tannhäuser / Derive”, a shirtless Lyxzén resembled a young Iggy Pop drenched in sweat and the luminescence of the stage throughout the heavier and quieter portions of the song. As the final breakdown approached, Lyxzén left the crowd with some serious food for thought.

“A lot of people don’t understand this but what we got is a fuckin’ beautiful thing! I don’t know a lot of things…but I know one. Don’t let anyone tell you how to live your life. Don’t let anyone tell you how to act, how to think, or how to fuckin’ look!”

As quoted on their official website, “We never did The Shape Of Punk To Come justice back when it came out, too tangled up in petty internal bickering to really focus on the job. And suddenly there’s this possibility to do it like it was intended. We wanna do it over, do it right. For the people who’ve kept the music alive through the years, but also for our own sakes.”

This was certainly achieved tonight as Refused proved their vitality and significance as a band and made history with one of two incredible shows in New York City. I am looking forward to them “doing it right” flawlessly once again in Philadelphia. See you at Riot Fest East!

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