The lead vocal we find woven into the fabric of a subtle melody in “Eat the Bugs,” the new single and music video from The Refusers, is easily one of the lustier and more aggressive elements in the track but were it not conveying as weighty a political message as it is, I’m not certain it would be as profound as it is in this specific instance. The Refusers aren’t playing glossy-pop games with their rejection of the powers that be in this latest release; truth be told, theirs is one of the more evocative and stimulating I’ve come across in the punk genre this year. To those who would call players like Machine Gun Kelly a new face for this genre, The Refusers are here to remind everyone what being punk rock is really all about.
While the voice beneath the blanket of guitar and percussive tones is intensely hypnotic, there’s a lot more to the construction of the climax in “Eat the Bugs” than its words and brutish melodicism alone. Instrumentally, the trappings of a very brash variety of old-school punk are very present – particularly with regards to the backend of the mix – but the overall execution (and compositional integrity) lies within the realm of alternative rock, albeit an updated strain that you couldn’t have come across very easily just ten years ago. It’s a bit heavy to digest if you have a radio-centric palate, but for the rest of us, it’s a must-listen if there was one out this fall.
This production style, in the grander scheme of things, owes a lot to the surreal pop movement in the American and British undergrounds without question, and despite how much this conflicts with the straightforwardness of the theme, lyrical delivery, and melodic climax, I think we needed the juxtaposition to drive the finer points of the song home. There is, after all, a flood of new singles relating to politics of all sorts hitting record store shelves in 2022 and 2023 – of all genres, mind you – and in order to properly distinguish theirs from the rest, The Refusers rightly got creative with components like texture and tonality.
Presenting us with an intriguing approach to the narrative is one thing, but to try and shape the music to reflect the same level of emotion that their words would is on another field of thinking, and that’s why I’m interested in hearing what The Refusers are going to do with their sound in the wake of “Eat the Bugs” finding some success. They’ve got a lot of different angles they could incorporate into their nonlinear approach to songwriting, and based on what they’ve already done here, I think it would be smart to leave everything on the table, no matter how perceivably experimental or alternative the concept might be. This is a time to use musical platforms as a launch pad for the biggest and broadest ideas an artist can conceive, and from what I’m able to gather in “Eat the Bugs,” this is a band that wants to use everything they have at the moment to do something incredibly big and impactful.