The Refusers: Disobey

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Submitted by Michael Saulman

Seattle’s The Refusers are going to make some serious waves with their third studio release Disobey. The nine-song collection is another politically inclined entry in the band’s discography since first forming in 2010, but they are better than ever before at mixing their political messaging with appealing musical arrangements crackling with rock and roll spirit. Their musical excellence will allow many to enjoy the album that might otherwise disagree with the opinions of the band’s main songwriter Michael Belkin. It’s essentially a populist message the band pumps out, but they know how to shift gears without ever sacrificing a musical identity obviously meaning a great deal to them. The production frames the package in a physical package that has equal parts intelligence and attitude bubbling up from every line in the track. This new album will further solidify the band’s position as one of the most individualistic rock acts working today.

Playing with Fire” sets things off with a particularly impassioned note thanks to Belkin’s intense guitar work and the palpable anguish he invokes with his voice. It’s a testament to Belkin’s songwriting talents how he continually incorporates recognizable elements from our everyday speech into his songwriting while still orchestrating these sentiments in a visceral, intensely focused fashion. “Why Do They Lie?” takes on Big Pharma and some attendant targets but it has a much more restrained tenor than the first cut. It’s an excellent twist from the album’s first song, but “Disobey”, the album’s third song and the title cut, is the release’s indisputable high point thus far and dredges up more traditional hard rock spirit than we’ve heard from anything else so far. The number “My Baby Loves Rock and Roll” is much different than Disobey’s earlier tunes with its lack of any social or political message, but The Refusers are clearly having fun is much more playful and still present their music with every bit as sonic muscle.

Fake News” is post-punk, in many ways, but The Refusers keep things direct and simple without ever aping classic punk music sounds in any sort of stagy way. Michael Belkin and his cohorts deserve being lauded by how closely they want to be engaged with modern American life, but this is music that’s ultimately tethered to its time period in a way some listeners may find disagreeable. It’s entertaining, though – wildly so. The slowest developing song on Disobey is its second to last cut, “Free the Captives”, and it shows how adept the band is working with a variety of musical textures.

It ends on an, essentially, cautiously hopeful note with the song “Emancipation” and the groove they hook into for this final curtain is the primary musical allure while the lyrical material rates among the band’s most intelligent and considered so far. The Refusers are one of the best indie rock bands plying their trade today and their third release will endure as one of their most representative efforts. They are working at a high level, but there’s a pleasant feeling coming from these songs that the band can and will do more as they continue evolving. Disobey is a call to arms, but it’s an immensely artful collection as well.