Better late than ever

Refuse Resist are enough to make a grown man try
By BARRY THOMPSON  |  February 9, 2010


VIDEO: Refuse Resist, "Comeback"

The eternal argument over what is and is not punk rock has been run into the ground for so long, it’s become a cliché — and clichés are so not punk. But for a while, we all agreed that the most totally not-hardcore thing of all is getting your shit together and becoming a productive member of society. Once you’re a nine-to-fiver with a spouse, a mortgage, a cute dog, a hybrid, and 2.5 progenies, you can’t go back to carousing with degenerates, throwing trash cans, and making garish hairstyle decisions. You’re an adult! Responsibilities ’n’ shit! You must defy your own defiance!

Or not. If all that’s true, how to explain Refuse Resist?

The band disembogue their sophomore CD, Socialized, this Sunday at the annual Ron Holbrook benefit show at Great Scott. And given that it’s been a mere year and a half since they cranked out their debut, Mind: Yourself, it would seem that Shawn Refuse — now in his early 30s — is making up for lost time. (In fact, that’s precisely what the lyrics for “At a Dead End” indicate.) When he happened upon guitarist Mike Resist and drummer John Mehlman back in ’07, he was coming off a decade away from band-oriented pursuits.

“When I was 17,” he explains, flanked by the rest of the quintet in their warehouse practice space down by the Charlestown docks, “I got out of Central Massachusetts because I couldn’t stand living in the suburbs. From there, I started school and got caught up in the whole work life. I was in a long-term relationship that ended, and I realized the big thing that was missing the whole time was music.” If Refuse did any singing in the shower during his furlough from hardcore, that might’ve hastened his courtship’s demise. The disconnect between his mild, unassuming speaking voice and the fuming, Mephistophelean, Jim-Henson-spawned monster snarl is quite flabbergasting.

Then there’s fortysomething guitarist Steve Risteen. I get bored when bands talk up their sonic heritage and their roster change-ups, but the recent addition of Risteen is a different story. You can’t expect Refuse Resist to hush-up about their influences when one of them is, like, standing right over there.

“Back in the early days, it was brand new,” says Risteen, who co-founded prominent Boston outfit Slapshot way back in 1985. “There wasn’t a thing called ‘hardcore.’ You had to sneak into shows. Get kicked out of clubs. Do hall shows. MTV had just started. There was no media, no Facebook, no nothing. Except for people in the scene, no one knew what hardcore was. There’d be a Globe article once a year — ‘Slam-dancing! This violent thing!’ Now, people slam-dance at Pearl Jam.”

Like Refuse, Risteen took a long hiatus from hahdcoah, after leaving Slapshot in the early ’90s. “I moved on. I was up in New Hampshire for a while, married, had a kid, enjoying family life. Now it’s time to have the midlife crisis and make some noise again.”

Unlike the songs on Mind: Yourself, or the others on Socialized, “Middle America” exceeds three minutes. Aside from that, Refuse Resist don’t vacillate much on album #2 — they just come closer to perfecting righteously indignant retro-hardcore. If “Captain” and “Fashion Show” from Mind felt like invitations to break a bunch of shit, “IRS” and “Sunday Matinee” command you to break everything you own, then sneak into your neighbors’ houses and break everything they own. Suffice to say that private property everywhere could be in peril if this band carry on their prolific pattern.

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