Rebelliousness has been everywhere in music in the last few years, but if there’s a true-blue rock and roll band around these days that could care less about avant-garde tones and experimental concepts, it’s The Refusers, who openly reject trends and those who would seek to set them in their forceful new single, “Propaganda.” “Propaganda” bludgeons us with its guitars, cuts loose in its chorus, and showers anyone within reach with distorted melodies as rich as they are tuneful, and while this track probably wasn’t composed as a statement of rebellion from its players, it certainly sounds and feels like a declaration of war against a music industry bloated with its own pretensions.
The instrumentation in this song would be utterly crushing were it not mixed as tightly as it was, but it isn’t matched up with a singer who can’t deliver just as much of a whack with his words. The chemistry between the musicians in The Refusers is unforced and not the product of some label A&R department’s ultimate marketing scheme; there’s simply too much of a connection between all of the working parts in the music for that to be the case. They’re not competing for our attention in “Propaganda” as much as they’re playing to maximize the sonic scope between them, which has been an issue among similarly stylized bands to come out of both coasts in the last twenty years.
“Propaganda,” much like some of the other protest-oriented modern punk works that have been getting a lot more love from the college beat than they have anywhere in the mainstream market, is a song that lives and dies by its thick guitar parts, and I for one think they emit some of the better tones I’ve heard on an independent rock record in a while. I have a feeling that The Refusers want us to feel their music as much as we hear it, and through their carefully-constructed components – from a complexly mastered guitar track to its relationship with the bass, drums, and vocals in the mix – they’re giving us the kind of authentic listening experience that scores of rock fans had complained about missing in the last three years.
The Refusers aren’t a household name yet, and I wouldn’t anticipate seeing them at any major award ceremonies this year, but if you’re looking for as real a rock sound as you can find in the year 2023, the new single “Propaganda” needs to be in your playlist queue this June. They’re onto something really special here, and though they can’t be accused of riding the postmodern-inspired wave with other indie acts, their music is as thought-provoking as anything I’ve heard in the underground lately. “Propaganda” is a good introduction to their style, and I don’t doubt that it will raise their profile throughout the country as the year progresses, but I don’t get the impression that this track represents a stylistic or professional peak for these musicians – if anything, they’re just getting the ball rolling here.