All Things to All People Vol 25 / Featured Release Roundup for December 20, 2017
This week on the Sorry State blog we’re going to keep the crass, commercialist spirit of Christmas going by talking about our most wanted records. I must admit that I have some qualms about this topic, because conventional record collector wisdom dictates that you keep your want list close to your chest lest you inadvertently increase the desirability (and therefore the price) of what you’re going after. However, I don’t really “go after” records. Despite having been super into records since I was a teenager some 20 years ago, I’ve only ever half-assedly maintained a want list, and I don’t really spend any time looking for the records on it. I’ve always been more of a “take what comes” type of record collector, content to enjoy what I find in my usual haunts and more intrigued by the prospect of a good deal on an under-appreciated gem than finally snagging my holy grail. That said, there are a couple of records that I would really like to own, and I’ll quickly write about a few of those here.
First up is Government Issue’s Legless Bull EP. Now, this is a weird one because obtaining this record would scratch an itch that I ostensibly claim not to have, and that’s the quest for “completeness.” I can only think of a couple of “complete” collections that I’ve put together in my life. Back when I was really into Leatherface in the early 2000s I owned every single piece of vinyl they ever released (including numerous variations and test pressings as well as things like original t-shirts), and a year or two ago I completed my collection of original X-Claim! releases (there are only 6 of those, but every single one of them is quite difficult to find and expensive when you do find them). I’m sure there are other complete collections that I have—I certainly own all of the original vinyl by bands like Wire and the Buzzcocks from their initial runs—but that’s more because I like the music on every single one of those records than because I’ve actively sought to “complete” a collection.
Much like Wire and the Buzzcocks, I just love all of the music released on all of the early Dischord records (up to around #20 or so… they start to lose me with Beefeater and Fire Party, though maybe one day I’ll come to like those records too). What’s more, I’ve loved that music since I first heard it as a teenager and always sought out the original pressings, so I was able to get copies of most of them back before they were astronomically expensive. The two that always eluded me were the rarest ones—Legless Bull and the Youth Brigade EP—but when a customer walked into the store with an original Youth Brigade EP a few years ago I knew that one was going home with me (which I must say was a good choice… the original pressing is mastered super hot and reveals a savagery that doesn’t come across on the Year in Seven Inches pressing). However, G.I. has continued to elude me. The same person who sold the Youth Brigade single (among numerous other crazy collectibles over the years) said that he was pretty sure he had a double of Legless Bull, but he’s never come through. I’ve often thrown up a bid on copies on ebay, but what I consider a pretty aggressive bid is probably a low-ball offer to most people. And with the going rate on these things being $600+ these days I really don’t see myself springing for one any time soon.
A side note to this one: were I to acquire Legless Bull, I would immediately be faced with another dilemma, because in addition to having all of the main Dischord releases from 1980 until 1984, I also have all of the “fraction” releases like SSD, Necros, Double O, and United Mutation. That is, with one exception: Iron Cross’s Skinhead Glory. That’s a record whose going rate, in my current opinion at least, far exceeds its musical worth, so should I find the G.I. record I’m going to find myself in even more of a pickle. That’s the thing about this completeness thing… as soon as you think you’re done, a whole new and deeper world opens itself up to you and beckons you in.
Next up on the want list are two Japanese records that I’ve been after for a long time: Aburadako’s first 12” and Chicken Bowels’ self-titled EP. Having been lucky enough to go to Japan twice, I’ve been able to find original copies of a lot of my favorite records. I’m pretty sure I have every single piece of Death Side vinyl (including compilation appearances! I guess that’s another complete collection…), 3 of the 4 Gauze LPs (still missing Fuck Heads, but that doesn’t stress me out for whatever reason), the first two G.I.S.M. 12”s, the Bastard LP… I could keep going but I already feel like I’m bragging. However, the two records I mentioned continue to nag away at me. Whenever I have a friend who is going to Japan and asks people to send them their wants I always mention these two records and no one has been able to come through yet. But why these particular records?
For Aburadako, it’s because their flexi is one of my most beloved Japanese punk records and I feel like having the 12” is a necessary step toward appreciating the band more deeply. Whenever a record really clicks with me, the first thing I do is check out the releases before and after it in the band’s discography… usually those releases have a better shot at being good, and even if they aren’t understanding a bit of the context usually helps to deepen my appreciation of the release I really like. However, that first 12” is a glaring hole in my Aburadako discography… I have all of their later 12”s but haven’t spent a ton of time with them as they pretty much abandon punk. I’ve heard the 12” so I know it’s not some kind of magical bridge between their earlier and later stuff but I feel like really understanding it will help me to understand something I can’t understand otherwise. And unfortunately the CD reissue just doesn’t do it because it starts with the 7” tracks, and listening to the 7” and 12” back-to-back just doesn’t flow like it should. I suppose I could just make a playlist or burn a CD with only the 12” tracks, but of course I also want all of the artwork (which is SUPER cool) and the other contextual information.
The context argument doesn’t really get me anywhere with the Chicken Bowels 7”, because it’s the only thing the band released aside from a couple of tracks on the My Meat’s Your Poison compilation. However, from the minute I heard this 7” I was in love. This happened during a very pivotal moment in my music-listening life, when my friend Joel let me “babysit” his entire record collection for a summer. Joel had an amazing, very Japanese-focused record collection (he actually had two copies of Fuck Heads… I should have wrestled one away from him then!) and I systematically listened to every single record in it over the course of several months. The Chicken Bowels record stood out for a number of reasons… the wacky band name and downright absurd cover artwork gave it a kind of exotic, alien quality that was extremely intriguing (this was years before you could go on YouTube and binge on k-pop videos or subscribe to a streaming service loaded with vintage anime). Second, as someone who was just coming off a pretty deep obsession with big-guitar melodic punk like Leatherface, Naked Raygun, and Government Issue, the subtly melodic character of Chicken Bowels’ songwriting really sucked me in. There are probably about five people in the world who will appreciate this comparison, but they always sounded to me like early Snuff trying to play Death Side songs (or vice versa). More than a decade later, whenever I listen to mp3s of this EP the hairs on the back of my neck still stand up.
OK, loved ones, you have exactly 4 days left to acquire one of these gems and make my xmas dreams come true! Or, if that time frame is too tight, there’s always next year… and in the meantime I really do need some new socks.
Gee Tee: Death Race 7” (Neck Chop) Third EP from this Australian project, and last time I wrote about them (which was regarding their 7” on Goodbye Boozy) I thought they had kind of a D.L.I.M.C. / Coneheads vibe going on, but this new EP seems to go beyond that and hit upon something a little more distinctive and original. In particular, it reminds me a lot of Brian Eno’s first two solo albums, when he was still making pop music but started to be really aggressive about bringing different sounds than just drum, bass, guitar, and vocals into the mix. Death Race is similar in that it feels a bit like some of the best neo-garage on the surface, but upon closer inspection it’s made of different ingredients. There are a remarkable number of different tones and textures here, but they’re all wrapped up in a completely infectious package. The whole new Neck Chop batch is very strong, but this one might be my favorite of the bunch.
KNOWSO: Look at the Chart 12” (Neck Chop) If the artwork wasn’t enough to clue you in, about 30 seconds of listening to this record will make it clear that it spawns from the some of the same minds that have recently brought us bands like Cruelster and Perverts Again. While all of those bands are similar in some ways, they’re also different in others, and that’s certainly the case with KNOWSO as well. Instrumentally, the thing that seems the most notable to me are the surprisingly melodic guitars, which are double-tracked in this Greg Sage kind of way that could be really melodic and beautiful in different hands, but of course KNOWSO continue the artistic exploration of moron headspace from their other bands. Some of my favorite lyrics on Look at the Chart include “They sick the dogs on my people / They sick the people on my dogs,” and “I keep seeing you around / Why? / This is my town / Me and my friends’ down / Me and my mom’s town.” On this record smart and dumb are used like sweet and salty to balance one another out and give the whole thing a unique flavor. If you’re really averse to one or the other the whole thing might fall flat for you, but I think this record is totally great.
Parsnip: Health 7” (Anti-Fade) Debut 4-song EP from this Australian band, and man is it killer! The retro sleeve design looks super cool, but for me it simultaneously raises and lowers expectations… since it looks like an old Kinks single I get up my hopes that this will be some great pop music, but then when I think about how few retro-60s bands actually pull that off I have a kind of mental backlash before I’ve even heard the record. However, once the needle drops on this thing it’s hard not to fall in love… Parsnip sound to me like the perfect mixture of sophisticated 60s pop and charmingly rickety late 70s post-punk… like the Raincoats or Kleenex incorporating some hammond organ, taking a stab at Zombies / Box Tops / Left Banke-style baroque pop and arriving at something I feel like I’ve never heard before. The sound of this EP is wonderful in its own right, side-stepping the modern habit of having every frequency in the range of human hearing occupied. However, the real treasure here are the songs themselves, which are fabulous… try your best not to hum along with “Health!”
Very Mental: Misconstrued 7” (Total Punk) Debut single from this band out of Olympia, and that’s pretty much all I know about them. However, I know that Olympia hasff a very high standard for punk rock and Very Mental very much meet it… this isn’t one of those throwaway garage singles that seems like it was conceived, written, and recorded in the space of an hour. Very Mental have serious pop chops, and when Total Punk compares them to the Dangerhouse set it’s an apt description, both because they have some of that X-esque vocal interplay going on and also because these songs feel sturdy and meaty in the same way that many of the tracks on those classic singles did. Throw in a perfectly gritty recording and you have another keeper from Total Punk.
The Celetoids: Pupal Stage 12” (Drunken Sailor) Debut 12” (I think it was released earlier as a cassette) from this Croatian band. The Celetoids have a sound that’s tough to pin down, combining elements of hardcore, post-punk, and the darker end of garage-punk (like the Marked Men and Radioactivity) into something that’s really beefy but also super catchy. I’m reminded of countless darker, heavier, pop-infused punk bands over the years, from the Buzzcocks (particularly Steve Diggle’s tracks) to the Wipers to later Government Issue and Naked Raygun to Pegboy… the Celetoids are a pretty comfortable fit in that tradition, and they have the songwriting chops to warrant the comparison.
Chemotherapy: S/T 7” (Time Change) If you’re the type who chases after the rawest, most inept punk rock you can find, let me introduce you to your new holy grail. I actually hadn’t heard of this Chemotherapy EP before this reissue came out, which I suppose makes sense because 1. the original vinyl is insanely rare and 2. it’s really only noteworthy because of it’s horribleness. This is, quite frankly, one of the most inept musical recordings I’ve ever heard in my life… it’s like a punk rock Shaggs, with the bass and guitar completely and totally out of tune with one another, a drummer who clearly has no idea what they’re doing, and a singer who nevertheless sells it like he’s fronting the second coming of Minor Threat. A lot of music that other people describe as inept I actually think is quite beautiful, but there’s nothing beautiful about Chemotherapy. I honestly can’t tell if they’re joking or if it’s merely the best they can do (and the must-watch video on YouTube of them playing in their high school cafeteria doesn’t provide any further clues), but if you want to see just how raw, abrasive, and ugly music can get this is a record you need in your life.
Rolex: demo cassette (B.L.A.P.) Debut cassette from this band out of LA, and man it’s a ripper! Very much in the “weird hardcore” vein, Rolex have a clean guitar sound, a noodly bass player and a lot of quirky (but really, really fast and tight) rhythmic changes. It sounds a lot like early Die Kreuzen played about 20% faster, which basically means that it sounds a whole lot like Nasa Space Universe in places. In particular, it reminds me a lot of NSU’s first EP which had a much brighter, clearer recording than their other records. This one has a similar vibe, and the production being so clear and open just gives more room for the quirkiness of this one to shine. Highly recommended.
The Mark Vodka Group: The Debut EP cassette (Big Dunce) Big Dunce gives us another hit, this time from Halifax’s The Mark Vodka Group. Unlike a lot of the other Big Dunce bands, Mark Vodka doesn’t rely on synths or drum machines, but instead turns in an EP of organic, poppy (but still quite noisy and messy) rock music. My favorite here is the first track, “Shadow of Your Former Self,” which reminds me of the early Television Personalities stuff in the way that it brings a kind of 50s influence to the post-punk DIY raw home recording style, and like the TVPs the pop hooks on display here are first rate. I wouldn’t be surprised to find that there’s a Booji Boys connection here because Mark Vodka has a similar ratio of pop to fuzz, but these tracks are a little more straightforwardly pop. If you dig the kind of neo-DIY being put out on the Market Square label I’d highly recommend checking this EP out.
Pobreza Mental: Demo (self-released) Demo cassette from this new New York band that, judging by the names, features a bunch of familiar faces. While Pobreza Mental sing (mostly) in Spanish and will certainly scratch your itch for Toxic State-style hardcore punk, to my ears they have more of an early Italian hardcore type sound… wild, raw, and just a little bit loose. Like a lot of the early Italian bands (Negazione or Upset Noise, for instance), they’re also a little bit metallic, which comes out on tracks like “Are You Ineffective.” That track almost has an Agnostic Front Cause for Alarm vibe in the way that it dumbs down and hardcore-ifies thrash metal. Much like the Μάτι demo we got a few weeks back, Pobreza Mental’s demo shows that New York is not done giving us innovative and exciting hardcore punk bands.
Fragment: In the Dust 12” (Desolate) Debut full-length from this Canadian crust band, and boy is it intense on the ears. Honestly, I don’t have much time for middling crust these days, so something needs to be really extreme and over the top to catch my attention and Fragment certainly fit the bill… there’s a real Framtid / Gloom-type “everything louder than everything else” sensibility at work here and the production is surprisingly rich and detailed for such a loud and noisy record. This is one that you can either listen to and pound your fist along with the drums or you can get lost in the swirling layers of noise and feedback. While the whole thing is really enjoyable, my personal favorite part of the record is the latter half of side two where they really cut loose, incorporating some surprising mid-paced riffs as well as some more abstract, riff-less parts (there’s one intro where the only noise you hear from the guitars is picks scraping against the strings for a good long while). Whether you’re coming to this one looking to rage or looking for some high concept art I think you’ll be pleased.
Entombed: Wolverine Blues 12" (Earache Records)
Bolt Thrower: The IVth Crusade 12" (Earache Records)
Unified Right: Straight to Hell 12" (Triple-B Records)
Bugg: S/T 12" (Pop Wig Records)
The Sickness: Complete Sickness 12" (ОПАЧИНА)
Penetrode / C.H.E.W.: Split 7" (Neck Chop Records)
Whip: S/T 7" (Neck Chop Records)
Color TV: Paroxoteens 7" (Neck Chop Records)
KNOWSO: Look at the Chart 12" (Neck Chop Records)
Gee Tee: Death Race 7" (Neck Chop Records)
Jackson Politick: Paste V.1 12" (Neck Chop Records)
Living Eyes: Modern Living 12" (Neck Chop Records)
Andy Human: Freeze 12" (Neck Chop Records)
Keepsies: Dumb Fun 7" (Neck Chop Records)
Patsy's Rats: Is It Alright? 7" (Wink and Spit)
Prettylittleshindig: Spins 7" (Wink and Spit)
The Squirmers: Tampico 7" (Wink and Spit)
Feels: Close My Eyes 7" (Wink and Spit)
Stalag: Secrets 7" (Cameleon Records)
Los Reactors: Dead in the Suburbs 7" (Paramecium Records)
Parsnip: S/T 7" (Anti-Fade Records)
Gad Whip: In a Room 12" (Ever / Never Records)
Very Mental: Misconstrued 7" (Total Punk Records)
Double O / Red C: Demos 12" (euro import)
Negative Space: Gestalt 12" (Drunken Sailor Records)
The Celetoids: Pupal Stage 12" (Drunken Sailor Records)
First Base: Not that Bad 12" (Drunken Sailor Records)
Swingin' Utters: Drowning in the Sea 12" (Fat Wreck Chords)
Enslaved: Monumension 12" (Osmose Productions)
Enslaved: Blodhemn 12" (Osmose Productions)
Mutant Video: Vanity of Life 12" (Iron Lung Records)
His Electro Blue Voice: Mental Hoop 12" (Iron Lung Records)
Naked Naps: Year of the Chump 12" (Self Aware Records)
Enslaved: Eld 12" (Osmose Productions)
Enslaved: Mardraum 12" (Osmose Productions)
Violent End: S/T 7" (Rock ‘N’ Roll Disgrace)
BB Eye: Headcheese Heartthrob 12" (Lumpy Records)
Plastic: S/T 12" (Lumpy Records)
C.H.E.W. / Rash: Split 7" (new)
Woodboot: Krang Gang 12" (Neck Chop Records)
Beta Boys: After Dark 7" (Neck Chop Records)
Acrylics: S/T 12" (Neck Chop Records)
Bleeding Gums: II 7" (Neck Chop Records)
Warm Bodies: Domo 7" (Neck Chop Records)
Lost System: No Meaning No Culture 7" (Neck Chop Records)
Schizos: Fuck Iggy Pop 7" (Neck Chop Records)
Macho Boys: S/T 12" (Neck Chop Records)
C.H.E.W.: Demo 7" (Neck Chop Records)
Sick Thoughts: Songs About People You Hate 12" (Neck Chop Records)
Mark Cone: Now Showing 12" (Neck Chop Records)
Nasti: Big Achievements 12" (Iron Lung Records)
Rakta: Occulto Pelos Seres 7" (Iron Lung Records)
Lebenden Toten: Static 12" (Iron Lung Records)
EEL: Night Parade of 100 Demons 12" (Beach Impediment Records)
Katastrof: S/T 7" (Beach Impediment Records)
Long Knife: Sewers of Babylon 7" (Beach Impediment Records)