Tuesday, March 24, 2009

THE REFUZORS FIND THEIR FAITH Remember The Refuzors back in their heyday? Back when they were A-list Seattle punk rockers. They were one of the best live bands around. Uncompromising, edgy and raw. They could have been lumped in with alot of hardcore bands from that era but for one thing. The songwriting, mostly by guitarist and vocalist Mike Refuzor set them far ahead of other great Seattle bands like The Fartz or The Blackouts.
These guys never made it out of the confines of the Vancouver/Seattle/Portland alt vortex. I'm sure they never made a penny, but The Refuzors were the real deal. Totally without guile or bullshit, their lives and music were undistinguishable. They were hombres, outside the lines with fiercely loyal fans. By the late 80's though, the band slowly unraveled from drugs, alcohol, a generational shift in music and limited recognition outside the Northwest. It's a typical story, but it's without a typical ending. Read on.
In 1993 Mike Refuzor got some of his band mates back together and recorded two sides for the now defunct Seattle label 'Bag of Hammers'. The results are spectacular. 'Think I Lost My Faith' and 'Jim Jones' might just be the missing link between the brilliant NW underground scene of the 1980's and the brilliant but over-hyped 'grunge' of the 90's. Unfortunately Bag of Hammers released only 800 copies of the single and without any promotion it went nowhere. That in itself has made this a long sought-after single. I'd bet my balls somewhere there's still a stack that were never sold....It's that rare. Meanwhile Mike ended up in a spiral that eventually left him on the street. In the early 2000's he suffered a mild stroke and without the support from his old friends and fans he became nearly unknown to the generation who cut their teeth on grunge.
Recently I came across a copy of the ‘Bag of Hammers’ single and was completely caught off guard. The Refuzors were always a great live act, but I only know of one other recorded song available anywhere. 'White Power' was included on the Seattle Syndrome compilation put out in 1981 by Engram Records. 'White Power' was a great track, and possibly could have gotten college radio airplay if it weren't for it's misleading title. The song was directed at one-time Seattle rock critic Regina Hackett and her assumption that Mike's black leather had something to do with fascism. Remember, this was 25 years ago. The chorus screams:

'I never said White Power to you...White Power, I'm sayin' it now. You put those words in my mouth"
Both 'Think I Lost My Faith' and 'Jim Jones' have big guitars and upfront drums & bass that defy the typical punk rhythm section. Mike's vocals are torn-ragged and raw, but not like every other cookie-cutter hardcore vocalist. This is real pain; not fake angst. There's a beautiful, passionate cruelty at work here. These songs are a brilliant mix of writing and delivery. This is classic stuff. Stuff that makes me want to howl and cry and bang my head at the same time. Stuff that proves my theory; The greatest bands in the world will probably never be heard. Most will never make it outside their garage door.
The atypical ending? The lives of some of The Refuzors have taken turns for the better. Mike's off the street, healthy and making a go at being clean and sober. Sixteen years after they were recorded both songs...along with an entire album's worth of material...Are about to be re-released. The Refuzors may never end up onstage again…who knows? But we'll have a permanent reminder of their contribution to the outrageous success far less talented Seattle bands had in the 90's. I don't know if The Refuzors were some of the 'Shoulders of Giants' grunge bands stood on, or if they were just garage-bound guys that got stepped on and tossed aside when the music biz smelled cash. It doesn't matter. Think I Lost My Faith' and 'Jim Jones' are fucking brilliant, fucking beautiful masterpieces even if they never get heard....But they will. Just you wait...You'll hear them.


LISTEN TO 'THINK I LOST MY FAITH' BY THE REFUZORS


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6 comments:

  1. Refuzors also have an LP out recorded in 1997. Idol Records which was Charlie Thunders' label (Thankless Dogs)...10 songs recorded at Vagrant Studios. Lineup was: Mike on Guitar/Vocal
    Roach on Drum/Vocal
    John Carey on Bass
    Renee on (some)Vocal
    It's good!

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  2. I like the album better than "White Power" or the 45. The songs are catchier.

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  3. This is the Refuzors that I remember.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tV5gePb9MWA

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  4. I can't remember very well this singer, well maybe because when I hear him the first time I was only a little child, in fact my brother have to look for his old disc and listen a pair of songs to remember him.

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  6. thank you for writing about the Refuzors. I met up w/ Mike, Danny, Roach and Renee when i was working at the Bahamas Underground in the early 80s. Mike was/is great poet . I saw both Roach and Mike a few weeks ago..they deserve recognition.

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