The Refusers are a band with an agenda, but they balance it with attention grabbing musicality mitigating any disagreements you may have with their political stances. Their third studio album Disobey explores many of the same anti-establishment themes powering earlier releases like Wake Up America and First Do No Harm with the added benefit of presenting its nine songs as wiser, more experienced musicians than ever before. Regardless of whether you believe or agree with their positions, The Refusers write, record, and perform songs bristling with the sort of passion you don’t find much of in modern music. They are engaged with their world and the nine songs on their new album promise to be gripping additions to their live set; in fact, they seem geared for that purpose alone.
The opening track “Playing with Fire” is a bucket of blood, dissonant blues giving vent to a howl of deeply felt rage. The vocals are a perfect complement for the track thanks to the white knuckle hysteria they’re able to invoke that, nevertheless, doesn’t veer into self-indulgence and histrionics. The Refusers take a more measured approach for the album’s second track “Why Do They Lie?” and it’s given a particularly individual spin thanks to the electronic touches added to the song. The band does an excellent job of giving this mid-tempo number palpable energy and much of that can be attributed to the drumming. The rhythm section and Joe Doria’s Hammond organ are a potent combination for the album’s title song “Disobey”. The guitar riff is simple, but memorable and the sheer brio filling the vocal has enough rock and roll spirit for a dozen songs.
Doria stands out again with his barrelhouse piano runs on the cheerful good times stomp “My Baby Loves Rock and Roll”. It’s an enjoyable shift in gears to hear the band’s focus turn away from issues and, instead, concentrate on entertaining listeners alone. They’re equally convincing in the role. We’re back with the headlines, however, with the song “Fake News” and it’s another vocal spat out with wide-eyed conviction. Steve Newton’s bass playing here is especially heavy and counterpoints nicely with Doria’s Hammond organ and another muscular drumming performance. “Free the Captives” is a slower, moodier number than we’ve heard from the band on Disobey, but it has a strong Sturm and Drang effect during its heavier passage dramatically juxtaposing with some genuinely melodic moments. The album’s final cut, “Emancipation”, kicks off with a raucous flourish before settling into a hard hitting groove concluding Disobey on an emphatic note. Some people aren’t going to be able to get past the band’s messaging and The Refusers make no apologies. They shouldn’t have to. They make their voices heard, both lyrically and musically, and you can take away what works for you from this album and leave the rest. There’s no question, however, that The Refusers’ Disobey is their strongest effort yet and proves they’re only gaining momentum since they’re 2010 formation.