Featured Releases: July 1 2021
Razorblades & Aspirin #12 zine The latest issue of Razorblades & Aspirin is out, and if you aren’t hip to it yet, wake the fuck up! Razorblades & Aspirin is a zine for people who love punk old and new (there’s a LOT of overlap in coverage with the stuff we carry and write about at Sorry State), and its idiosyncrasies include a full color, full bleed print job that is uncommon in the world of punk zines and a heavy focus on photographers, photography, and the visual culture of punk. I love that Mike at Razorblades & Aspirin remains engaged with current punk (he’s based a few hours away in Richmond, VA and it’s always cool to see his incredible photos of shows I was at), but the pandemic times we’re in demanded a heavier focus on old stuff for this issue (even so, he squeezes in interviews with several current bands and labels and a lengthy feature on how punk record stores are navigating the pandemic). I love the interviews with legendary LA punk photographer Ed Colver and Brian Ray Turcotte of Fucked Up & Photocopied, and there’s the now-familiar R&A mix of reviews, interviews with photographers, and stunning photography. Odds are that if you’re a Sorry State newsletter subscriber, you should be a Razorblades & Aspirin reader too.
Canal Irreal: S/T 12” (Beach Impediment Records) When I first listened to the preview track on Beach Impediment’s Bandcamp site, I knew nothing about Canal Irreal. I don’t think I’d ever heard their name before. Going in with no expectations, I was blown away. I had to stop and be like “what the fuck IS this?” and it seriously bummed me out when I saw it was the only track that was streaming. (It’s now streaming in full and on streaming services too, so you won’t encounter this problem.) When I investigated further, I realized this band rules so much because they’re a group full of ringers. First up, there is guitarist Scott Plant, one of my favorite current musicians in the world. I first fell in love with Scott’s music through his old band, Civic Progress. (If you aren’t familiar, check out their Petrolem Man EP on YouTube. And, word to the wise, I just checked Discogs and Civic Progress’s EPs are officially dollar bin rippers.) Civic Progress played the 80s USHC-influenced style that was popular at the time (2006-7), but set themselves apart with a style that had a whiff of post-punk and Scott’s lyrics, which were already revealing the astute social analysis, elegant wordsmithery, and occasional Doc Dart-esque uncomfortable bluntness that remain hallmarks of his unique voice. (Sorry for all the parentheses. I am having a lot of parenthetical thoughts. I’m just going to go with it. Since we’re in a parenthetical right now anyway, I might as well mention two other lyricists who are stylistically similar to Scott and just as good: Nathan Ward from Knowso, because their new record also arrived this week and won by a hair’s breadth in the competition for my heart that is Sorry State’s Record of the Week, and Rich Ivey from ISS, because he’s fucking family, like H2o and Madball or some shit. But back to Scott Plant…) Civic Progress was based in St. Louis, but in the late 00s Scott moved to Chicago, which is when I got into the Scott Plant business for a brief but exciting moment. Scott’s new bands in Chicago were Manipulation (Sorry State Records numbers 28 and 54, the former of which is still in stock) and Broken Prayer (Sorry State Records numbers 52 and 71, both of which are still in stock and the former of which is housed in a jacket, screen printed by moi, whose quality I no longer stand behind). Having revealed myself as an incompetent at some point in this space of time, Scott soon set sail for greener label pastures. Broken Prayer morphed into Droid’s Blood (whose two vinyl releases are in stock at Sorry State) and even a solo electronic 10” lathe cut under his own name (It was limited as fuck yet as of this writing our inventory says we still have one copy). I’m throwing a lot of names at you here, but I also want to emphasize that through each of those projects, Scott’s music has become more ambitious, more original, and more exciting. Also, like a lot of musical geniuses, Scott has grown interested in synthesizers. Broken Prayer and Droid’s Blood featured synths (my newly Swedish friend Liz Panella played some of them in Broken Prayer, while Scott took over in Droid’s Blood) and also flirted with the harsh yet evocative textures of power electronics, while Scott’s work under his own name is less noisy and more rhythmic. Which brings us roughly to today, wherein I’m telling you that Scott Plant HAS RETURNED TO THE STRINGED INSTRUMENT! (AND IT IS GLORIOUS!) And that’s what the fuck you hear in Canal Irreal. I know nothing about Canal Irreal’s inner workings (I didn’t even know they were a band until a few days ago), but these songs are so strewn with Scott Plant’s musical fingerprints I would be surprised if someone informed me he “just played guitar.” Whatever Scott Plant’s creative role, someone in this band knows how to write a mother fucking punk song, and these energetic and hooky tracks are great ones, with one foot foot in hardcore, one foot in UK post-punk, and a healthy appreciation for classic Chicago punk with huge hooks like Naked Raygun and the Effigies. (Sound familiar? If not, you might want to re-read what I wrote about Civic Progress near the top of this lengthy description. And it’s about to get lengthier, motherfuckers, because SCOTT PLANT IS ONLY ONE FOURTH OF THIS BAND!) As member #2 in this lineup (which I did not plan before I started writing and am here emphasizing is in no particular order) we have MARTIN FUCKING SORRONDEGUY. Yes, Martin from Los Crudos and Limp Wrist, though if you’ve even attempted to read this entire description you are the type of person who almost certainly has a lesser-known Martin project that is even closer to your heart. (I’m going to go with Needles (about whom I’m going to resist the urge to rhapsodize right now), though there are no wrong answers.) I’m going to assume that Scott Plant doesn’t write any of the lyrics in Canal Irreal and say that, if you’re going to bump Scott off lyric writing duty, you better know what the fuck you’re doing, but this is not an issue because Martin is one of the greatest lyricists in the entire history of punk. I can only provide limited insight into this given that my command of Spanish is minimal (though Martin’s writing in English hints at what us poor monolinguals are missing), but suffice to say that, based in no small part on his lyrics, Martin is perhaps the single most important punk of the post-1990 era. (Though Martin is one of those people who seems so good at everything that his photography, work as a punk historian and archivist, graphic design, films, and more things I’m sure I’m forgetting are just as important to mention.) Where were we? Oh yeah, we’re halfway through the list of members. Fortunately for you, I am less familiar with the work of bassist Fernando Anteliz and drummer Lupe Garza, but they prove themselves to be Scott and Martin’s musical peers here, playing no small part in generating that perfect combination of hardcore punk and post-punk that blew me away on my first listen. I don’t have a way to wrap this up, so I’ll say that hopefully you stopped reading by now to devote your attention to listening to this record. If that’s the case, when you buy the vinyl, I hope you buy it from Sorry State. I already got my copy so I am cool with selling the rest of them, but I will experience a twinge of sadness when it is no longer in stock. If you are still reading this and haven’t checked out the record, I imagine you must be in some kind of situation where you can read this, but cannot listen stream the record Perhaps you are in the waiting area at the DMV and you do not have any headphones. Or maybe you’re on a camping trip and, before you got out of cellular range, you saved this piece of writing to some sort of app or service that allows you to access it when you’re offline. If you’re the person on the camping trip, you’re probably great at planning and you already made yourself a note to check out the Canal Irreal album. If you are not the person on the camping trip, this should serve as a reminder that you should make said note and put it somewhere you will see it. If you’re in a pinch you can write it on your hand. And, since no one is reading this anyway, I’ll also apologize to the people I mentioned if any of the information herein is erroneous. I’m just a fan with no fact checking department doing my best.
Antidote: Thou Shalt Not Kill 12” (Radio Raheem Records) I’ve been listening to Antidote’s Thou Shalt Not Kill EP for at least twenty years now, and this reissue has significantly increased my understanding and appreciation of this all-time hardcore classic. If you’ll indulge me in a bit of reminiscing, I’m pretty sure the first time I heard an Antidote song was on Redemption 87’s self-titled album, which came out in 1996 and practically lived on my turntable for my last couple years of high school. That album featured a cover of “Something Must Be Done.” I didn’t know it was a cover at the time; I just knew it was my favorite song on the record. A few years later, once the Internet made researching 80s hardcore much easier, I heard Thou Shalt Not Kill and realized why that song stood out so much from the others on the Redemption 87 album. Eventually I found a bootleg LP that compiled Thou Shalt Not Kill, the Abused’s Loud and Clear EP, the Mob’s first EP Upset the System, and Urban Waste’s self-titled EP. To me, that bootleg LP is the sound of New York Hardcore, or at least my favorite iteration of New York hardcore. While I love all four records deeply, it was a toss-up whether I liked Antidote or the Abused best, and it is wild that Radio Raheem has now given the world definitive reissues of both records. I’ve listened to this EP hundreds of times over the years and still know all the words, but I never learned much more about Antidote. Radio Raheem’s reissue fills a lot of gaps in my knowledge, the most exciting of which is the wealth of material here other than that classic EP, which is also compiled. First up is a batch of 1982 demo tracks that are just killer. They showcase a very different band than Thou Shalt Not Kill. While the lineup is mostly the same and they play several of the same songs, the band’s sound hasn’t come together yet, nor has Louie Rivera’s trademark vocal style (which surely must have influenced Ray Cappo profoundly, among many others). Not having those trademark elements of Thou Shalt Not Kill is a minus, but a big plus is that, with the most distinctive elements of Antidote’s sound absent, it puts more focus on how great these songs are. The 1982 demo tracks sound like classic SoCal hardcore to me: energetic, tuneful, and almost poppy. Some moments bear an uncanny resemblance to the first Bad Religion album. There’s even a big, Naked Raygun-style “whoa” part to “Die At War” that they nixed for the Thou Shalt Not Kill version, and it’s awesome. These 1982 demos are fucking essential in my book, but wait… there’s more! The b-side of the LP is a live CBGB set engineered by Jerry Williams (who also engineered Thou Shalt Not Kill) featuring even more unreleased songs. The live set splits the difference between the more metallic and melodic material, but it’s hardly redundant, especially given the great fidelity. The music on this record is essential for anyone who loves early 80s NYHC, and this reissue also features Radio Raheem’s usual best-in-the-game packaging, including a huge booklet, sticker, and the usual meticulous graphic design and printing. If your collection is anything like mine, you already own multiple versions of Thou Shalt Not Kill, but you don’t want to miss what Radio Raheem’s version brings to the table.
Military Mind: Hardcore 2021 cassette (self-released) Military Mind is the latest hardcore powerhouse to emerge from Canada, this time from the fertile western Canada scene that also includes bands like Bootlicker, Chain Whip, Headcheese, and the Slow Death Records roster. However, if you gave me a blind taste test without telling me anything about Military Mind, I would have assumed they’re the hot new band from Pittsburgh. Their approach is like White Stains and Loose Nukes, rooted in 80s USHC (almost to the point of being an homage), but with a sense of danger, excitement, and immediacy that reassures you punk is happening right now and that it’s not just cosplay. Five tracks, about six minutes, and it’ll leave fuckin’ skid marks on your tape deck. Get it.
Execution: Silently It Grows 7” (Hardcore Victim) Silently It Grows is the fourth release from this hardcore band from Melbourne Australia, following 2018’s Flags of Convenience 7” and a couple of cassette releases. I haven’t heard any of those releases, so I came to Silently It Grows fresh, perhaps expecting something rooted in noise punk given the cover art. That’s an influence, but Silently It Grows is so more than just a solid noise punk record… it’s a fucking beast. Execution reminds me of Public Acid in that they have a sinister, dangerous edge to their music while also being tough and hardcore, but given their obvious grounding in classics like Confuse and Gai (as well as nasty Italian hardcore like Wretched and Negazione), it seems like they’re more willing to lean into the abrasive and chaotic elements of their sound. The hot track for me is “Fatal Shores,” and if you’ve spent as much time as I have jamming Public Acid’s Condemnation EP, I encourage you to give it a listen as it has a similar spirit to that record. Not that “Fatal Shores” is the only great song… the title track is a banger too. I don’t know how hip American punks are to Execution yet, but this record is a fucking scorcher.
Distant Fear: A Reminder of Death 7” (Wrought Material) Black metal does not lend itself to the 7” format, but New Zealand’s Distant Fear makes it work. Much of my favorite black metal feels cinematic in scope, with a wide-screen sensibility that conjures vast, open (snow-covered) landscapes. Distant Fear generates this sensibility not through the hypnotic repetitiveness that some bands use, but through an eclectic yet seamless approach to style. These two songs feature parts that incorporate noise / power electronics, Bathory/Venom style punky savagery, Amebix-y slow boil, triumphant viking metal, and a little of that classic 90s-style Norwegian grandiosity. Even more impressive, it does this in a way that doesn’t appear schizophrenic, but as almost… cosmopolitan? I don’t know, they just fucking make it work. This release features beautiful packaging too, including a screen printed jacket, hand-stamped labels, and an obi strip. Like just about anything from New Zealand, it’s super expensive, but I get an extra bit of excitement when I get a record from that fascinating little corner of the world. Maybe this isn’t Sorry State’s normal thing, but I’ve listened to this a ton and think it rules; maybe you will too.