The Refusers – Disobey

Hailing from the spiritual home of alternative rock, Seattle, The Refusers cut against even those expectations with an essentially traditional hard rock sound occasionally infused with even older styles or else harboring surprising punk energy. The latter is reflected in much of Disobey‘s lyrical content, but The Refusers give recognizable shapes to these songs that make their occasionally strident messages palatable for any audience.

Playing with Fire opens the release with a guitar heavy approach and a nearly unhinged vocal that makes the song more gripping than it already comes off. The vocals are strong, but Michael Belkin’s guitar work is equally memorable without ever attempting to take the spotlight even once.

The musical attack of the album’s second song, Why Do They Lie?, is much more streamlined and less given to outsized dramatics than we hear with the album’s first song. The vocals, to their credit, could play these tunes out as rage-laced punk screeds, but there’s more nuance than you’d expect from this song and other tracks on Disobey.

Things take a pleasing and surprising turn with the funky influences burning through on Eruption and the key points for that sound are Steve Newton’s bass and Belkin’s biting guitar riffs. It’s one of the album’s best musical moments and the vocals respond with the sort of crackling singing you’d expect from an inspired front man. Belkin delivers and gets some judicious support along the way from Newton’s backing vocals.

My Baby Loves Rock and Roll goes off in a much different direction than we’ve heard with any of the other cuts and those without the same political leanings or any at all, will appreciate this deviation from the band’s standard songwriting arsenal. They attack the song with every bit of the same energy they reserve for the more topical material.

Slashing and angry rock hits again with the track Fake News and the muscular musical charge they throw in listener’s faces will satisfy any rock fan even if they struggle with the band’s point of view behind the songwriting.

The organ work rumbling underneath Government Slave strengthens the musical substance of these songs as it does elsewhere on Disobey and it’s a classic formula pairing it with hard rock guitar that the band manages to make their own. There are no obvious influences on their music, at least none of the specific variety, so there’s often a feeling with the band at their best moments they are playing particular styles like they’re the first band to try such things out rather than owing any obvious debts.

The last song on the album, Emancipation, clearly is intended to the curtain closer for the release and works exceptionally well in that role. There’s a sense of the music encapsulating what we’ve heard from the album one more time with an added emphasis on maintaining a forceful groove.

There’s enough of a mix in styles on the album to make Disobey one of the finest rock albums you’ll hear in 2018 and the only apparent limits on this band are how much they may or may not alienate listeners with their politicized songwriting.

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