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Coachella 2012: Refused stake their claim in the desert

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When the Swedish post-hard-core combo Refused first came to America in the late ‘90s, the band had a plan. “We wanted to overthrow your capitalist system,” singer Dennis Lyxzen said onstage at the band’s reunion show at Coachella on Friday night. “But we realized, this land is your land, it isn’t our land.”

Don’t speak so soon, Dennis. After a 14-year hiatus between the band’s landmark 1998 album “The Shape of Punk to Come” and its return show, one might have expected their blend of Fugazi-ish thrashing, ambient samples and larynx-ripping breakdowns to have aged along with the band.  Punk is a live-fast-die-young genre, and the Battle In Seattle-era revolutionaries from the late Clinton years are probably on their first round of kids and mortgages now.

COACHELLA 2012 | Full coverage

But shockingly enough, the band’s audience seemed to grow in absentia, alongside the mystique of “Shape” as a supremely ambitious yet never-less-than-serrating punk record. After their Friday set, it’s safe to say America is theirs again.

When the group hit the Outdoor stage after a few minutes of doomy atmospherics,  they hit it running. Lyxzen hasn’t lost an inch of Jagger-esque cockiness onstage, pouting and jump-kicking and owning his dueling urges toward shattering capitalism and being a total rock star. Refused’s music is physically and instrumentally intense, with screwy time changes and wild swings of dynamics; almost a decade and a half later, it still felt as fresh as a bloody lip.

 “Summerholidays vs. Punkroutine” sauntered on post-punky guitar riffs; instead of feeling dated in an Internet era, Refused’s calls to take over the airwaves on “Liberation Frequency” felt  like they wanted to smash all corporate media -- and not just the FM music dial. And of course, the mighty “New Noise” was, is, and will remain one the most totally cathartic moments in punk music. When Lyxzen shrieks “Can I scream?” before the song's atom-bomb breakdown of distortion, he answers his own question. But to scream it back at him, on a field meant for peaceful, trippy vibes, felt almost like a war cry for 99%-ers, who have a lot more to be angry about today than they did in ’98.

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-- August Brown

Photo: Singer of the Swedish band Refused Dennis Lyxzen onstage at the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival on the first day of the festival. Credit: Arkasha Stevenson / Los Angeles Times

 
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