The Refusers’ brand of modern hard/punk rock emerges again with the Seattle quintet’s new single “Eat the Bugs”. Michael Belkin’s latest lyrical tirade against the ills of modern society takes on a particularly bleak bent with this depiction of a world where bugs are extolled for their flavor and nutritional value. It’s not hard to miss how much he’s enjoying this role and sounds like some enraged modern Jeremiah preaching about society’s decay and degradation fronting a band instead of ranting at a street corner.
The steady crunch of the song’s main guitar riff is a good fit. It crunches like steeping on dead cicadas and never goes too far – it leads the way, there’s no doubt, but without overshadowing the other players. Some may wish that Belkin’s voice is higher in the mix, but no one will question its effectiveness as is. Brendan Hill’s drums answer his vocals at nearly every point during this song and play an enormous role in determining the song’s trajectory. He’s a more than capable musical partner for Belkin.
Bass player Steve Newton, Hammond organ sorcerer Joe Doria and Eric Robert’s keyboard playing round out the band’s quintet configuration. Doria gets particular mention in this review for the recurring organ fills he drops into the track and how it beefs up the overall sound. There’s no question either that this music would play extraordinarily well in a live setting. It doesn’t have an arrangement that needs tremendous restructuring to bring off a live performance.
The production has a natural sound. It seems a little stiff at first, perhaps, but if so, it’s adjusting to the song’s plodding tempo. The tempo does give it the illusion of being a metal track; The Refusers, musically and certainly in terms of attitude, owe the vast bulk of their act to deep punk rock influences rather than any hackneyed metal. The riff’s consistent quasi-stutter provides a hook instead of even a primitive melody, but there’s no question that there’s a smattering of pop song under the surface that listeners can latch onto.
It has a semi-anthemic build, as well. The transition from the song’s verses into the chorus will be the pinnacle moment for many and there isn’t a second when it sounds forced. The Refusers have a musical attack that comes out of its corner throwing one haymaker after another, but it’s never without rhyme or reason, and it sounds like they are having a lot of fun along the way.
There’s no doubt, however, that they mean it too. Whatever satirical elements exist in the song, and they’re definitely there, The Refusers have a dark vision of the modern world they aren’t afraid to share and it comes in an assortment of guises. “Eat the Bugs” is the latest and one of their most compelling yet, but there’s undoubtedly more on the horizon. The Refusers aren’t the sort of band to lay fallow for long and this new single should be a crowd favorite at their future gigs.
Eric Jarvis, posed by Garth Thomas