Friday, May 4, 2012

Happy Refugees

Acute Records -- the ones who unearthed the Prefects half a decade ago and got the Nightingales running again -- have once again found a long-lost, unjustly forgotten post-punk outfit, this time the Happy Refugees. I could not possibly improve upon the Acute Records Blog entry on how they found the Happy Refugees, who they were and why you should care about them, so here it is:
Just how did Acute Records discover Happy Refugees? Good question! Many many years ago, there was a time when the internet did exist and it was possible to quickly reach strangers in far off lands, but there was a shortage of what’s called “bandwith”, so while you could electronically talk to people, it was not yet quite possible to simply send music and other media quickly over the wires. I don’t remember how I came into contact with the record dealer Steve in the Netherlands, ( but I did. Now back in those days, record dealers would make mix tapes on cassettes of things they thought you might like to buy. Steve made me such a mix and it contained the classic Hamburger Boy by Happy Refugees. Steve had been in touch with the band, so a few years later when I finally decided it was time to try to reissue it, he got me in touch with them. And only 5 or 6 years later we have Return to Last Chance Saloon! Steve meanwhile is still spreading the news at his blog Low Down Kds and selling the goods here. Thanks Steve. As we roll out this release, it’s been really interesting to hear people’s response. This is definitely one of those “I can’t believe I’ve never heard this before”, “where has this been hiding”, “you’ve changed my life” kind of releases. This isn’t post-punk-era barrel-scraping. This is a fully formed awesome record without a bum song. The references that people dig up have been interesting. Lots of comparison to the likes of The Fall, Marc Riley, Nightingales and Mekons, all favorites. DIY favorites like Swell Maps, Homosexuals, Desperate Bicycles. The early Flying Nun/New Zealand scene. Velvets and Stooges, Reed and Cale and Iggy solo. OK, I needed to get that lame name-dropping referencing out of the way. Taken on their own, Happy Refugees are a great rock band and Return to Last Chance Saloon is a great, shambolic, emotional and catchy rock album. Check it out, meet them on Facebook and come see them in NY.
You can download their whole live WFMU set at the Free Music Archive. And, as the Acute piece implies, they played some shows late last year in there is some video as well:

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