Freedom Fighter is the aptly named new album from The Refusers. In what could not be more timely, the band’s third album rips through the current state of the union and fires shot after shot at the current administration’s shortcomings. Proving their range, The Refusers also spread love in the poignant “Love Never Fails”. From Seattle, Wash., The Refusers don’t back down from fighting the good fight.
Leading the pack is Michael Belkin, who worked on Wall Street for years, taking on the lead vocals and guitar. He’s joined by Joe Doria (Hammond organ), Eric Robert (Nord keyboard), Brendan Hills (drums) and Steve Newton (bass, backing vocals). Doria’s vintage-sounding organ sings along, as that epic sound is just par for the course with this band that can go from punk to reggae to pop rock in a moment’s notice. Freedom Fighter isThe Refusers’ third release – following 2016’s Wake Up America and 2018’s Disobey.
“Love Never Fails” has a message of hope, peace and of course, love. Belkin’s sincere voice lingers, his message never strays. You can tell he’s singing from his gut in the chorus love is gonna shine, love is patient, love is kind, it does not envy, it does not mind. Love does not anger, does not have pride…Sounding almost like more of a U2 song (“Love Is Bigger Than Anything in Its Way”), this song filters through the modern lens and coagulates. The guitar is bright, against the organ, it has a rich tone. Hills’ percussion fills the spaces with an even-tempo beat. Newton’s groove is a bit unnoticed on the first listen, like all great bass players, but at the second listen, his shapes are subtle reminders to this song’s endearing essence.
“Shame On You” has this stick-it-to-ya ‘tude. It’s so great hearing the gnarl, the bitterness in Belkin’s voice. It’s like his guitar riffs are a wake in the raging seas of fed-upness. He’s more than perturbed, he’s pissed. Shame on you, he sings. The bass and the drums go at it faster, at an accelerated pace. Robert’s keyboard sound is brassy, edgy and gives a whole other vibe.
It’s not too hard to get swept up in the easy to learn lyrics in “Clown Show”. Belkin berates the words it’s a clown show, bozo! it’s a clown show, bozo! with frequency and diligence. The song is categorically rock and roll, with some accoutrements of punk and drama. More like the mood from “Shame On You”, Belkin’s guitar has that stiff upper lip that just fights its way through the drums, through the larger-than-life organ. Eeny, meeny, miny, moe, wall street and the government are a joke, sings Belkin. The drums just pound, with the high cymbals smashing their way across this busy street of a song.
The Refusers are purveyors of rock & roll. Judging by the titles and the history of this band, the entire Freedom Fighter record will harness the energy of a band that’s ready to stand on the soap box. Relishing in their stupor and leaving nothing on the table, The Refusers refuse to back down.