Protest songs have long been an avenue for artists to convey objection to status quo. One such band that never lets its grip slip on freedom’s watch is The Refusers. Freedom Fighter, the Seattle band’s third full-length album, takes the baton in the war against abuse of power and decline of the public’s trust. While government itself is a point of contention, The Refusers can still write a happy song – “Love Never Fails” leads this rock-packed song crowd.
“Love Never Fails” starts out with the same pomp and circumstance one might find from The Beatles – the Fab Four’s late 60s influence ranks high in this tune. A generous amount of melodic guitar, fused with an array of rhythm and beat – “Love Never Fails” is a modern take on that yesteryear rock & roll sound. Lyrically, the contagious chorus (love does not anger, does not have pride, it’s never weak, it’s always strong, love keeps no record of wrongs. It don’t come cheap but it’s not for sale, love never fails) is easy to sing-along. Lead singer and guitarist Michael Belkin has charisma and gives an instant ease in his delivery. His guitar is slick with crunchy tendencies. The drums mixed in at the same level. Just in the background a faint layer of organ keys fill the room like a smoke plume. Writing on the wall, love is gonna shine, writing on the wall, Belkin sings, as if he’s tagging the cement walls himself. This breathes energy into a new movement. We’re past due, the writing is on the wall to do something, The Refusers seem to echo.
In the whipper and witty “Shame On You”, The Refusers don’t shy away from the rock sound, with crunchier guitar riffs displaying a wide range of emotion. While it’s safe to say that the song’s theme is against politicians and greed, The Refusers have a knack for making betrayal and anger sound anthemic. The organ sounds a bit anemic at first, before it just tears away the sheets and blankets the listener to a robust wall-of-sound. Today’s hero is tomorrow’s goat, shame on you, shame on you, shame on you, the lyrics point out. Belkin can almost be seen pointing his finger, the emotion in his voice is dripping with disappointment. The keys playing out like the guy in the corner of the room observing a bar fight, trickle back in again, tickling their way to the surface. Shame on you, shame on you, Belkin repeats over and over.
In “Clown Show” the carnival comes to town and two guesses on who The Refusers are singing about? Wall Street and the government are a joke, Belkin sings. All the while you’re trying to get stuck in the lyrics of bozo, bozo and inadvertadly I kept singing the other half of “Shame On You” so it became bozo, bozo, shame on you. I digress. “Clown Show” brings back the strong garage-punk with some polished tones sound.
The Refusers are Belkin, with Joe Doria (organ), Eric Robert (Nord keyboard), Brendan Hills (drums) and Steve Newton (bass, backing vocals). Freedom Fighter follows 2016’s Wake Up America and 2018’s Disobey.