There are several reasons why Refused are one of the greatest hardcore bands ever. They’re certainly one of the most underrated hardcore bands of all time. If you have friends insanely into punk rock, you might have experienced this before. During an impromptu music rec session in which they list all their favourite and highly influential hardcore bands that you absolutely have to listen to or else, Refused are barely mentioned, and if they are, they’re never regarded as highly as say, Minor Threat or Black Flag. Hailing from one of Sweden’s biggest cities, Refused were a big band with even bigger ideas, and they weren’t afraid to scream about it.
First of all, Refused have never been a band to play by the rules. Their definitive full length, The Shape Of Punk To Come redefined the boundaries of hardcore, as they incorporated jazz and electronica into their songs; the same songs that stretched to over ten minutes. Bear in mind that the standard hardcore song usually only lasts for two minutes, and often even less than that. Despite the length of songs, Refused still managed to grab you by the throat at every second, from Lyxzen’s frenzied screams to Steen’s brutal guitars. Refused were never subtle, but, that was never the intent in the first place.
Secondly, Refused took the average hardcore left-wing lyrics to the extreme with a firm stance in Marxism, highly evident in several of their lyrics. “We want transmission for the people (by the people) is pretty tame, but what about “Capitalism is organised crime and we are all the victims”? They even wrote MANIFESTOS.
Does this make Refused cool? Hell yes it does. Why? It’s not violent, it’s not promoting oppression, like many neo-Nazi oi bands are. If anything, many Refused songs are about equality (see Racial Liberation, Hate Breeds Hate, I Wish… there’s plenty more). Refused are just one of those bands that want to start a revolution. And I love it.
Thirdly, and this is probably just me and fightclubsandwich who think this, but Denis Lyxzen is foxy. Seriously. He got voted Sexiest Man In Sweden by the Swedish Cosmopolitan magazine. We’ll show you why.
Fourthly, Refused are far more influential than you might think. You know those kind of pop-punk and post-hardcore bands that the kids are into these days? Quite a lot of those take cues from Refused. The Used stole the riff from New Noise in their song Maybe Memories, and Paramore reference lyrics from Liberation Transmission in their song Born For This. United Nations, a band containing members of Thursday, Glassjaw and Converge have an entire song devoted to Refused entitled The Shape Of Punk That Never Came. There are countless other bands that have referenced Refused in one way or another and there’ll probably be even more in future, because Refused are timeless. Their messages and music are becoming more and more appropriate in a music scene which has become stagnant. Refused were great innovators; it’s just a shame that nobody else in the hardcore scene really is.
Most importantly, I love Refused because they keep me excited. Still. I first discovered The Shape Of Punk To Come when I was thirteen and at the beginning of my punk rock education. It was a beginning and a half, as I became obsessed with Refused’s individuality and that edge that was missing from all the other punk bands I was into at the time. No matter how my music tastes have changed throughout the years, Refused have stayed at the core of my listening habits. To me, Refused are the perfect hardcore band. Not to mention, Refused have taught me one of the most valuable lessons in my life – CAN I SCREAM?!