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Photo Credit: Refused

The Shape of Punk to Come: listening to Refused in times of injustice and war. (Op-Ed)

Lyrically and thematically, Swedish hardcore punk band Refused has remained true to their incendiary, revolutionary spirit since the band’s conception in 1991. If anything, they’ve only become more progressive and radical. In 2024, the youth are angry at the state of the world, and we’ve turned to Refused to quite literally Fan the Flames of Discontent. In this bleak existence where our rights are constantly being stripped from us, genocide is watched on live television, being unable to afford to own our own homes, and drowning in unprecedented amounts of student debt, Refused fills a space that the typical, inauthentic music artists just don’t seem to fill.

From lead vocalist Dennis Lyxzén’s guttural screams, to his haunting, deep, droning vocals, to the unique sampling of jazz, electronica, and political speeches, to the band’s political activism, Refused is a rare gem. Their entire discography is aggressively progressive, begging for the power to be in the hands of the oppressed rather than massive corporations that hoard wealth. They are anti-establishment, socialist, and supportive of all minorities. They have always remained true to their beliefs and never sold out for more money or fame. Refused is uncensored, raw, and real – something that the youth of today crave.

The song I return to time and time again is “366” from the album Freedom (2015). Chills cast goosebumps on my arms every time I hear the painful screams of “That’s someone’s sister / That’s someone’s son / I’ve got a sister / I’m someone’s son / I want a better life / And I’m not the only one.” These cries for empathy are incredibly striking and show just how little the world has changed when it comes to accepting and protecting refugees who flee violence. The dehumanization of the oppressed is still prevalent today, and it is all the more painful as the youth are forced to see images of starving children daily. The American youth have war shoved down our throats at every turn, and we feel powerless in the face of a corrupt government that does not listen to us, or rather, refuses.

“REV001” from the album War Music (2019) is exceptionally powerful, a rallying cry for the oppressed to take a stand against sanitized, senseless violence and death – war itself. “When there’s blood on the streets somebody’s gotta pay / Somebody’s gonna pay for the shame and pain / When there’s blood on the street it feeds the hate / And you’ll feel our hate when we clean the slate,” the verse echoes. Lyxzén calls for one more revolution, one more final push for the freedom we have been denied. The technical skill involved in this track is unmatched, with a wailing guitar and steady drumbeats.

The Shape of Punk to Come (1998) was released before I was born, yet it certainly influenced my music taste, rebel spirit, and belief in liberation for all. Listening to Refused makes me feel seen, and collectively provides a sense of community for all people, of all nationalities, races, genders, sexualities, and religions; we can all find comfort in one band that unites us as one people, a people who resist and refuse injustice and war.

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