Political thought has been influencing music far beyond the realm of rock artists for many years, and in The Refusers’ music video for “Live Free,” their latest single, the aesthetic has an undisputedly profound effect on every element we see and hear. “Live Free” delivers a barrage of hard rock that has been stylized into a punky modern rhythm, and if its sonic depth isn’t enough to marvel at, its video’s protest-tinged components almost definitely will. Both an act of rejection and a very refined form of western performance art, this is one indie release that will shake both novice listeners and even the most diehard of underground followers to their core if you love quaking rock music.
In terms of its lyrical concept, this is not a song that has a hard time getting its message across both linguistically and via the delivery it’s offered by the band. Anyone can conceivably bark out some punky lyrics and give them a sense of anarchistic rage, but to develop sincerity in a song is to do something a vocalist in any genre, from hip-hop to pop and jazz and country music and beyond, would strive the entirety of their lives to accomplish, which is clearly what The Refusers are trying to do in this performance. Emotion isn’t fleeting here but instead inserted within the construct of both the words being presented as well as the backdrop they’re offered against. That’s an intrinsic component of even the most basic of alternative rock performances, and yet it’s also something that has become increasingly difficult to come by on both sides of the dial in 2022.
Instrumentally speaking, “Live Free” presents its audience with a deceptively simple churning of near-melodic riffing and punky grooves that, on the surface, wouldn’t appear to require more than a rudimentary knowledge of composing to construct. However, upon closer inspection of its mix, this single is startlingly multilayered, featuring guitar riffs stacked upon more riffs, a blustery drumbeat, and a ladled bassline that would make any metal band envious. The Refusers channel the grimy attack of Mudhoney and the like beautifully here, but to deem their new release as anything other than an original work indebted to hardcore ethics more than it is the basic rules of alternative rock would be an outright lie.
If you like rebellious music from intellectual minds, The Refusers’ new single “Live Free” is required listening this December, while its music video should be regarded as one of the best concept releases out this winter. Rock has been low on provocative commentary in the last decade, but for this band, contemporary trends and those who would choose to champion them just don’t come into play when crafting material to see widespread release. This isn’t just rage-rock that has no dive beyond the moment in which it’s being presented to us; from where I sit, this is unquestionably real punk rock for a generation that seriously needs it, and I would be shocked if I were the only critic saying as much this season.