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Where Are They Now: The Refreshments

Hey folks, here’s a Where Are They Now? 90s bands theme collaboration post! COMMUNITY!!!

For more, go check out  JAMES  MIKE  GEOFF  BRIAN  DEKE


And now, my contribution:

Ah, the Refreshments. I’ve liked these guys for a long time. Their album Fizzy Fuzzy Big & Buzzy (1996) hit me just right and at just the right time. There’s a dark humour and bite to the lyrics, and the musicianship was always playful and stellar. I got their next record, The Bottle And Fresh Horses, and loved it too.

Sadly, I was never able to find their two early EPs, Lo, Our Much Praised Yet Not Altogether Satisfactory Lady, and Wheelie, not even back in the day. They’re on my Grail List (see the top of this page!) and I assume that by now they are long, long gone.*

* of course I just checked Discogs and there is one copy of Lo, Our Much Praised…  for $92 CDN. Yeah.

Anyway, I also have a Refreshments concert story, which I believe I have already told in these pages during my recap of the Edenfest 3-day show that I attended in 1996. They were the first band on stage on the Friday, so there was not nearly the crowd on site yet that they deserved. But I was right down front against the barrier, singing along happily. They put on one helluva show despite the smaller crowd, and that sealed my love for them even more. They did their thing, and they did it really well, no matter what.

As a side note, I think it was during their set that Much Music had a plane or helicopter fly over the stage and film some footage of the crowd for later broadcast. Because what better time to get a sense of crowd turnout than the first band’s set on the Friday of a Fri-Sun festival? Right? Anyway, when we got home after the weekend, we had Much on the TV and there was my Tilley hat, filmed from above, right down front at the stage. I said “hey! That’s me! There’s my hat!” And that’s the true story of the one and only time I was on Much Music. I got that hat in 1991 and I still have it… because it’s a Tilley and therefore pretty much indestructible.

Of course, after everyone grew a little tired of that song about Jean Luc Picard (Banditos), interest in the band waned, and that’s sad. Fizzy had so many other great songs, like Down Together and Mekong and Girly and Blue Collar Suicide and… oh hell, the whole thing had a real feel to it. The next record was full of awesome tunes too! Sadly for this project, I went to the Man Cave to retrieve my copy of The Bottle And Fresh Horses and it was not there. I could swear I still had it, but I wouldn’t know where it has gone. Gah!

Whatever the case, the Refreshments should still be making huge-selling records and touring the world while naked hot babes slather them with something rare and expensive. Alas.

All I get now is people who think they’re being clever with musical trivia when they say “Can you tell me the name of the band who did the theme song for King Of The Hill?” Sigh. Yes, I can. So I always say “Without looking it up, can you tell me the name of Daedalus’ cat on the old cartoon Hercules from the 80’s?” They always stop, some take a guess, but no one ever gets it. Anyway. I was talking about Refreshments!

It was Rich at the excellent (serieously go read it all!) Kamertunesblog who informed me that Roger Clyne, lead singer of the Refreshments, has had a healthy career post-Refreshments with a band called the Peacemakers. Rich highly recommends their records, and if Rich says it, we all ought to take that seriously! 🙂  I looked up their Wiki and there’s a lot there, so rather than me explaining it, you can read it yourself right here.

I have never seen any of these CDs in the shops. Not ever. I have been prowling record shops in every town, province, and country I’ve visited for over 25 years, and I have never seen a single one. Of course they’re probably available online, but I’ve said before that sometimes the thrill of the hunt is as exciting (if not more exciting) than actually finding what you want. I’m sure one day I will find some stuff from them. I didn’t see any in Toronto in the shops I hit up, recently.

So where are they now? Well, it seems that the Refreshments are long since done. But Roger Clyne has kept going, and I’ll bet all those albums are awesome. I hope I can find some, sooner rather than later.

I still listen to Fizzy on rotation with everything else here, and it still makes me smile. If you ever come across their stuff in the shops, do yourself a favour and buy it all. Great tunes by a great band.

1994 Seattle Demos
1994 Wheelie
1995 Lo, Our Much Praised Yet Not Altogether Satisfactory Lady
1996 Fizzy Fuzzy Big & Buzzy
1997 The Bottle And Fresh Horses

Roger Clyne and the Peacemakers
1999 Honky Tonk Union
2002 Sonoran Hope And Madness
2004 ¡Americano!
2005 Live At Billy Bob’s Texas
2006 Four Unlike Before
2007 No More Beautiful World
2008 The Turbo Ocho Sessions
2009 Glow In The Dark
2011 Unida Cantina
2014 The Independent

The Refreshments – Fizzy Fuzzy Big & Buzzy [1996]

It was a noble idea.  Through the power of love the iPod, I would travel backwards in time about ten years and revisit some of the albums that I loved to death. By which I mean albums that I overdosed on.

You know the ones.  You heard them, you loved them, and then… well, it’s hard to say what happened, really.  Times change, tastes change, and some songs just have a shelf life.  I’ve thought a lot about songs and albums that love (or those that I used to love), and wondered what would happen if they came along for the first time today.  There are some albums that I really enjoyed and some that meant a lot to me, and I list them, and people say “…really? That?”  And that’s where this all began.

The idea was to pick a bunch of albums that I loved in the 90s but haven’t heard in full for a very long time.  I could do a series of reviews or just write them all up in essay format.  I hadn’t decided and as I write this, I still haven’t.  I imagine I’ll do individual album posts since there are at least a few that I could expound upon at great length – lucky you.

The first one I listened to was Fizzy Fuzzy Big & Buzzy by The Refreshments.  Around these parts, they were never that popular, and their fifteen minutes of fame seemed to last only literally that long.  If you’ve heard anything by them – apart from the theme song to King of the Hill – it was their single Banditos:

Now give your ID card to the border guard
Yeah, your alias says you’re Captain Jean-Luc Picard of the United Federation of Planets
‘Cause they don’t speak English anyway

This, in essence, was the catalyst for this project.  A friend of mine brought up the song when recalling how a sci-fi-loving mutual friend was obsessed with it.  I tried to explain that the whole album was actually really good, but stopped myself – did I really want to endorse this album from over ten years ago?  Was it still awesome?  Was it ever?

So here we are.

The first thing I noticed was that pretending that I’d never heard this album before was impossible.  The start of each song brought about a nice little feeling of recognition.  “Hey, this one!  I know this one!”  Of course I do, that’s the point, right?  But still.  Makes it hard to determine if I’d still like it if I was hearing it now for the first time.

The album is as it was.  90s rock music infused with some southwestern and Mexican influences.  Lots of songs about Mexico – enough that after a while, you might want something else.  There’s a definite sense of humour at work here, which is a refreshing change from a lot of the music coming out today, but humour in music can also limit an album’s longevity.  You can only hear the same joke so many times.

In the end, replaying this album was kind of like seeing an old friend again for the first time in a long time, only to have them overstay their welcome just a little bit.  You’re excited when they arrive, and though you secretly wind up a little bit glad when they leave, you’ll forget that feeling pretty quickly and be glad to see them when they show up again – as long as it isn’t TOO often.

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