HAPPY REFUGEES – BEYOND MOTH AND RUST
I know this blog and the Acute label has been really quite for the last few months (years?), I’m sorry but attention has been elsewhere. Luckily there are many other folks and labels doing good works, one could almost say nobody needs Acute. I do think it’s important though to make sure people know about some good things happening especially related to good things Acute’s done. For instance, in 2011 we released what we referred to as “our most obscure release to date!”, the expanded reissue of Happy Refugees seminal DIY cult-classic Last Chance Saloon as Return to Last Chance Saloon. Upon the release of that well-received, well-reviewed and well-loved reissue, the band were inspired to get back together and even celebrate with a trip to New York City, home of spiritual forefathers Lou and the Velvets, and played packed shows with the likes of Crystal Stilts, Regal Degal, Sapphire Mansions as well as a visit to WFMU. You can read about the Acute release here and here and our take on the NY trip here and here.
That however is not where the story ends! Maybe it’s where part 2 of Happy Refugees story begins, or perhaps it’s just somewhere in the middle. After returning to the UK, despite living in different parts of that tiny land, they managed to continue writing, both picking up where things left off and finishing the unfinished as well as starting anew with fresh material, the results of which is a NEW album, Beyond Moth and Rust. This was preceded by the creation of a new website, happyrefugees.com, which tells their story in more depth than I can or will here. It also has some media including a wonderful painted tribute to the NY trip from guitarist Paul Harvey and a section called The Gymnasium, a “carefully curated gallery” of stuff that hopefully they’ll continue to update.
Most importantly and relevantly it has information, samples and ordering info for the new album, so I should probably talk about that. These songs are rock-n-roll that recall Lou, John Cale and Iggy in the 70s with lyrics that tear into the pains of relationships and politics with equal parts tension and introspection. Is this the chaotic and shambolic noisy sound of a young DIY band? No, these guys are older now, more mature, better at their instruments. It’s worth noting that despite the raw nature of the 80s material, underneath and beyond that was the real appeal, the timeless appeal of songs and lyrics and they’re only stronger with age. Don’t get me wrong, an edge is still there and some of the bitterness has aged like a fine whiskey…a bit smoother perhaps, but twice as strong and valuable. Feel free to submit that last analogy to your favorite Best Music Writing on the Web year end lists come December. I’m no writer, just a lapsed label guy (at the moment) so it’d probably be better to quote our good friend Rick Taylor from the DC record nerd gathering We Fought the Big One who wrote “When I first heard Happy Refugees, I was immediately struck by their restless creativity and sense of adventure, the wonderfully odd way they married the shambolic with the elegant, the unexpected left turns, the often cinematic scope of their reach, and just the sheer quality of everything I was hearing…Beyond Moth and Rust has all the qualities that captivated me in the first place–the band’s vigor, knack for sharp hooks and capacity to surprise remain undiminished by time.” I couldn’t have said it better myself (and didn’t.)