Angela's Staff Pick: January 5, 2023

Hi Sorry State fam! Hope you all enjoyed some time off doing things you wanted to do over the past couple weeks. I went to Ohio to spend some time with family, then made it back to Raleigh for the actual holidays. Riveting stuff. It’s good to be back. Let’s go.

I’ve been listening to Sluggo’s S/T record daily for a couple weeks. It includes their well-received debut EP, Contradiction, and their second EP, Eighty-Four. The latter has never been released until now. Smash the two together and you get Sluggo’s first (and only) full length.

I hadn’t heard of Sluggo, but I saw the words Cincinnati and hardcore on the hype sticker, and my curiosity was piqued. I’ve never thought about the presence or absence of a punk or hardcore scene in Cincinnati. I grew up five hours north in Akron, so to be honest I never thought much about Cincinnati, period. Sluggo brought me up to speed in a great zine that comes with the record. Their bio is really interesting, and there are a ton of old fliers from killer shows they played.

A couple of hardcore-loving teens (as young as 14 and 15) living close to Cincinnati had the epiphany that their idols, like Minor Threat, look for local hardcore openers. But there were no local hardcore bands in Cincinnati. Cincinnati was not void of a punk scene, but they weren’t playing the more intense, faster style that characterized hardcore. So Sluggo was formed, becoming Cincinnati’s first hardcore band, and positioning themselves to quickly get on some of the best hardcore bills.

Oh yeah, their music. This is a really good record that truly gets better with each listen. It’s a smart mix of hardcore and ‘77 punk. They strike just the right balance in their music with a few lighter, mid-tempo tracks on each side. Also, lots of stand-out bass riffs and drum breakdowns. The intensity behind the guitar playing is pretty impressive too, given their ages. Speaking of which, Sluggo’s admiration for Minor Threat fueled their decision to add a second guitar by their second EP. It’s cool to hear the sonic differences between the two EPs, but I wouldn’t say the dual guitar set-up made them sound significantly different. The record sounds pretty cohesive.

You will definitely hear the vocal stylings of Minor Threat on the songs Demise and Figure it Out. And although Sluggo sounds less angry, when they shout “figure it out!”, it sounds like their version of “did you fucking get it?” Get it?

Anyway, I really like the super catchy songs like Put it Off and Friends I’ve Made. The riffs and beats on the latter track remind me of early Ramones. The song is said to be inspired by Sham 69, and you can tell. The sickest bass award goes to hardcore favorite, What Happens Next. That particular song was the only part of Sluggo to make it on a label, as it was featured on a Mystic Records compilation.

Sluggo’s sound was entirely different from the hardcore style that would soon emerge out of Cleveland. Sluggo would be more like Cleveland’s chill cousin down south who wouldn’t steal your wallet and beat you with it.

The story of Sluggo has its share of drama that would lead to line-up changes and ultimately, their dissolution. They were a new young band quickly gaining attention and playing gigs with major hardcore acts (see Sluggo zine). This would probably overwhelm anyone, but most of these dudes were one foot out of puberty. Even if short-lived, Sluggo made an impact and some impressive material.

It would be a shame if they never got a proper release, even if was 40 years later. So, what does one do when faced with this challenge? Obviously, you’d swing by Steve Albini’s electrical studio for a proper polish and transfer, pass go, and collect your accolades. And probably some closure, too.

We don’t have a ton of these in stock, so I wouldn’t sleep on Sluggo. It’s a great listen and the bonus zine is really well done.

As always, thank you for reading. See ya next time!


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