Featured Releases: February 9, 2023

The Mall: Time Vehicle Earth 12” (Fixed Grin Records) After a previous album and a couple of singles, Time Vehicle Earth is the second album from St. Louis’s the Mall. The Mall has a strong Sorry State connection since mastermind Scott Plant played guitar in Broken Prayer, whose two albums we released in 2012 and 2015. If you are a fan of Broken Prayer, you’ll enjoy the Mall, though there are some big differences. One big one is that the mall is all synths and drum machines, but while the timbres of the instruments come from underground electronic music, the songs still feel like hardcore punk to me. The Mall’s songs are riff-based, only they play those riffs on synthesizers rather than guitar and bass. There’s also a punk energy to the Mall’s presentation, and the vocals and lyrics are totally hardcore, belting out subtle social critiques with a pained shout/howl. The lyrics are worth taking a gander at, with gems like this: “Like city birds forced to sing at night / I can’t get a word in edgewise / With my kind who all sleep at night / Exchanging courtesies / And compromise with my flesh while I sleep.” While so many records we carry at Sorry State seem all too aware of how and by whom they will be received, Time Vehicle Earth feels expressionistic, like it springs from somewhere deep and personal. It’s idiosyncratic as a result, but it also has a power and authenticity that hits you right away and stays with you through multiple listens.

Rolex: Promo (11PM Records) 11PM brings us this four-song cassette from Rolex, which is a preview of an upcoming split LP the band will share with fellow LA band Grimly Forming. I’ve liked Rolex from the get-go, and these four tracks find them continuing to hone their style. Die Kreuzen is the band that comes to mind thanks to the frantic, sometimes herky-jerky rhythms and the way the guitar and bass occupy very different frequency ranges. However, Rolex is not only faster but looser and more unhinged, lunging into their songs like the Germs on a fat line of cheap speed. The songs are also so short and so quick with the changes that they make me think of the Urinals and the early Minutemen, when they were trying to cram as many ideas as possible into a small space. If you love hardcore that is ambitious as it is intense, you should listen to Rolex.

Various: Big, Big Wave 12” (Feral Kid Records) Sorry State has been repping the unlikely punk oasis of Hattiesburg, Mississippi for years now, whether that’s their well-known flagship band Judy & the Jerks or lesser-known projects like Fumes, Bad Anxiety, and Eye Jammy. Now Hattiesburg gets the regional compilation LP they have long deserved, and it’s great. Big Big Wave was born out of a project to record every active Hattiesburg punk band in a single day, and they pulled it off, yielding these 17 tracks by 11 bands. Like the American Idylls project Sorry State released a few years ago, the music runs the gamut of the punk underground, from Judy & the Jerks’ peppy hardcore to Control Room’s synth punk to Daphne’s Dinosaur Jr-inspired fuzz-n-wah indie rock and even some nu-metal-ish hardcore from Year of the Vulture. The back cover features liner notes by Biff from Feral Kid Records—who was key to executing the project—and there’s also a big booklet where every band gets to share a little of their personality in a visual medium. I love compilations like this that immortalize a particular time and place in vinyl, and Big, Big Wave nails everything it was going for.

Permanent: Hunger or Nausea 12” (Modern Tapes) By the time Sorry State released Cochonne’s Emergency 12” in the fall of 2021, the band had split, but Cochonne’s singer / songwriter / bassist Mimi Luse had already moved on to her next project, Permanent. Our part of North Carolina has always had a lot of cross-pollination between the underground punk and electronic / noise scenes (both of which found a home at the Nightlight club in Chapel Hill), and Mimi’s transition from Cochonne to the electronic project Permanent is a perfect example of the magic that can happen when those two worlds meet. I’m no scholar of electronic music subgenres, but I’ve heard Permanent’s music described as “industrial techno.” That term makes perfect sense to me because, texturally, Permanent’s music sounds like it’s grounded in the late 80s / early 90s Chicago / Wax Trax / industrial scene, with pounding, punk-inspired rhythm tracks, synths and electronics that tend toward the noisy and distorted, and clipped samples that lend the music a fractured cyberpunk vibe (the vocal sample that says “jack of diamonds” in that track even sounds a little like Steve Albini from Big Black). However, Permanent doesn’t rely on the pop-oriented structures I associate with the Wax Trax scene, but something more like techno, with overlapping motifs tracks shifting with the subtle power of tectonic plates, revealing compelling cycles of tension and release for those who listen past the relentless thump that confronts you on first listen. I’ve seen Permanent play live a bunch of times and the room is always bumping, and that energy and power are captured beautifully on this 12”. The packaging and presentation are also totally punk, a small-batch pressing (100 numbered copies) with a screen printed foldover cover. Not Sorry State’s usual fare, but it hits just as hard.

Indirekt: Nacht Und Nebel 7” (Larmattacke Records) Jeff wrote about Indirekt’s first LP, 1985’s Op Oorlogspad as his staff pick, and the same label has also reissued the band’s follow-up single, 1986’s Nacht Und Nebel. As Jeff wrote, Indirekt spreads out on Op Oorlogspad, dipping their toes into several genres, but Nacht Und Nebel pares things down to the anthemic punk rock that is probably of more interest to Sorry State’s crowd, and hence it might be a better place to start for those of you who aren’t familiar with this Dutch band. These four tracks are compact, powerful, and anthemic, sounding a lot like California punk from the late 70s and early 80s. Jeff mentioned the Avengers in his piece on Op Oorlogspad, but fans of Legal Weapon and the Adolescents will also like what they hear. Like those bands, Indirekt excels at brooding mid-paced songs like the title track, but can also rip out a fast on like “Proze in C.” I’ve been wearing out this record since the reissue came in, so if your tastes are anything like mine, I’m pretty sure you’ll get some spins out of it too.

Helta Skelta: S/T 12” (Bad Habit Records) Australia’s Bad Habit Records brings us a reissue of Helta Skelta’s debut LP from 2011. Sorry State carried the original self-released pressing way back then, so a few of you who have been buying records from us for 10+ years might already have this one in the stacks. However, by the time Helta Skelta put out their second album on Deranged Records in 2015 and toured the US, this first album was long gone. On this record, Helta Skelta’s style is one I don’t hear too much these days… punk rock with big, catchy riffs inspired by ’77 and garage-leaning bands, but played with the intensity of hardcore. If this had come out in the mid-2000s, people might have called it diagonal line hardcore, referring to the Buzzcocks-inspired sleeve designs on Social Circkle and Career Suicide records, but that’s only a rough comparison, as Helta Skelta had their own thing established here. The riffs are excellent, and while y’all know I like the fast shit, I think Helta Skelta is even more powerful on slower tracks like the almost bluesy “Submit” and the standout track “Disco Junkies.” Maybe there’s some AC/DC gene encoded in these Aussies’ DNA that makes them unstoppable with a big, mid-paced riff? Helta Skelta’s vocalist is also charismatic, the intensity of their performance emphasized by rough production that finds the vocal track frequently peaking way into the red. While this might fly under the radar for folks in the US, I’m glad Bad Habit allowed us to get this one back on the shelves for the curious to discover its riches.

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