“An album called Disobey by a group called The Refusers – you can’t get any more defiant than that, and that is exactly what rock and roll is supposed to be.”
The words of band founder, vocalist, guitarist, songwriter Michael Belkin tells all about the heart and intent of the band’s new and third full-length, indeed their sound overall. It is a collection of songs which snarl with defiance and irritability yet infest ears and incite the body with broadly flavoured rock ‘n’ roll in decades courting styles. Lyrically it reflects and attacks with incisive honesty and rigour while musically it has the body bouncing; a combination which makes the upcoming release of Disobey one compelling proposal.
Formed in 2010, Seattle hailing The Refusers sparked real attention with their 2016 album Wake Up America. It was a release which reflected and roared at a corrupt and twisted political and social world. It is fair to say things have not changed for the better in the world over the past two years and Disobey equally preys on its perverse habits and immoral practices. It focuses on the bad heart of America but as we all know it is a ruin reflected across the world from corner to corner.
Belkin links up with a host of musicians for the new album including bassist Steve Newton, drummers Sebastian Belkin (Michael’s son) and Brendan Hill from Blues Traveler, and keyboardists Joe Doria and Eric Robert, who has performed with John Oates, Keb’ Mo’ and Lucky Peterson. Disobey opens up with Playing With Fire and immediately lures ears with its blues tinted groove and potent rhythmic shuffle. Belkin’s vocals are soon joining the bold mix, adding accusing sparks as the track burned its presence upon the imagination. It is an intriguing start to the release, a song which did not explode on the senses but got under the skin by the second to arouse attention and an anticipation of things to come.
The following Why Do They Lie strolls in next with a deceptively calm swing, keys a tantalising lure in its developing melody nurtured rock ‘n’ roll. An instinctive catchiness soon had hips swaying as feet tapped; the track a swift persuasion before the album’s title track aroused the senses with its classic rock meets The Cars like canter. As lyrics focus and ensnare thoughts great hooks and fire bred grooves ignite the appetite, Hammond keys a tasty companion to the magnetism.
Eruption brings a call for change on a great funk ‘n’ roll saunter next, guitar and keys again a masterfully alluring incitement to accentuate rather than temper the lyrical charge while My Baby Loves Rock And Roll is a mischievous contagion echoing its title. It is a romp of the familiar and fresh which just hit the spot, swaggering along like an old inhibition evading friend.
Across Disobey, there is a seventies/eighties glaze to its rock ‘n’ roll, the following Fake News epitomising that essence with its melodic rock though to pin down straight comparisons is difficult thanks to The Refuser’s individual character of imagination and sound. The track was another which had us hooked early though the album was just as effective at pleasing ears with a more persistent almost nagging temptation as through Government Slave, another classic/hard rock nurtured proposal with tenacious hooks and teasing grooves.
The final pair of Free The Captives and Emancipation close the album up; the first a calmer but no less assured slice of rock balladry wrapped in the ever appealing embrace of keys. Its successor is a final cut of addiction flirting captivation; its chorus especially irresistible. As the album, there is something of Midnight Oil to the track, more in lyrical insight but also a little in its sound even with its more classic rock breeding, which just adds to the appealing hues at work.
Defiance and rock ‘n’ roll go hand in hand; always has and always will. The Refusers mix both with craft and adventure within Disobey; an album which may not be the most unique but leaves its rich mark rather enjoyably.
Pete RingMaster 12/06/2018
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