Whether I agree or disagree with someone’s opinions, I always have respect for those who are able to match belief with their life choices and lead a coherent life. The fact that The Refusers have managed to put together their love for rock and their core beliefs is inspiring, indeed. The five-piece band—featuring Michael Belkin (guitar, lead vocals), Sebastian Belkin (drums), Kevin Blackwood (drums), Steve Newton (bass, vocals), and Joey Walbaum (keys)—uses its art as an exploration of reality in the hopes of generating conversation and action, yielding meaningful change.
The band’s style can be described as high energy rock powered by growling guitars, pounding drums, throbbing bass lines, and catchy hooks blending elements of rock, funk, and reggae. But there is also a certain diversity to the songs on this EP. The title track for example is a high tempo, electric guitar-driven number supported by very energetic drums—a track typical for any band that describes itself as a high energy rock group.
But then you have the jazz-sounding “New York Times”, an old jazz-rock lounge number one could easily see the frontman, wearing a hat and twirling a baton, performing high kicks to. The cheerful melody of this tune really contrasts with the despondency of its lyrics, bringing to mind the discrepancy between what we are told in the media and what the reality actually is.
The melody of the softer “Wake Up America” has at the beginning quite a melancholic quality about it, the type one associates with a smoke-laden bar late at night where the lonely and despaired gather. The vocals are a mix of spoken word during the slower sections of the track and singing during the more energetic ones that call for America to wake up and take things back into its own hands.
One of the challenges of this collection is that the vocals don’t seem to have the strength to convey the necessary energy at all times. I’m not sure if it is because of the vocals themselves or the way the sound was engineered. Whatever the case may be, it results in vocals in “Wake up America” that seem almost hesitant, without the strength needed to give listeners the energy to arise, as if the band, too, is feeling the weight of the burden of how low things have sunk. Similarly, the vocals in “Born to Rock” feel too muffled for the instrumentation and melody. In the melodically hard-hitting, high tempo, electronic guitar classic rock number “Hang the Bankers”—which one would expect the vocals to form quite the angry tirade—the harsh lyrics were backed up by almost shy vocals.
The Refusers’ seven-track EP Born to Rock is a medley of numbers protesting everything from the financial system, the medical system, and the degradation of the quality of governance at various levels. And while again not all might agree with their opinions—I certainly didn’t—it is well worth a listen for individuals who like rock as well as anyone involved in or interesting in joining a conversation about the betterment of the world. More information about the band is available on their official website and on their Facebook page.
Pictures provided by RMG.