Featured Releases: July 29 2021
Blu Anxxiety: Play Dead 12” (Toxic State) I’ve been listening to Play Dead, the debut EP from New York’s Blu Anxxiety on Toxic State Records, for a few weeks and I still don’t think I’ve wrapped my head around it. The words “dark freestyle” appear on the cover, which intrigued me right away, and indeed there are elements of rap here as well as various “dark” sounds you might expect if you’ve heard singer Chi Orengo’s other projects like Anasazi and Children with Dog Feet. Insofar as you can describe Blu Anxxiety’s sound in broad strokes, they throw together 80s darkwave and synth-pop with more industrial sounds in the Wax Trax vein (though, like their labelmates L.O.T.I.O.N., they don’t sound as cold or as tinny as a lot of those bands did) with vocals that alternate between a rap-inflected style and a warbly croon that sounds a bit like a cartoon vampire. Which brings me to the subject of camp, which is going to be the make or break factor here for most people. Some people will dismiss this as goofy, and others will love the fact that Chi rhymes “Wrestlemania” with “Transylvania” or has a song about a “Skeleton Farm” (sort of like a goth version of Spinal Tap’s “Sex Farm,” which forces me to recall my favorite Spinal Tap double entendre, “plowin’ up your bean field”). To be sure, Play Dead doesn’t sound like anything else in your record collection, and if that is one of the chief things you look for when seeking out new music, you need to hear this. However, for those of you who aren’t as adventurous, this is going to test your limits in one way or another, so be prepared. Like it or not, though, Play Dead is one of the most distinctive and memorable releases of 2020.
My War #8 zine Some of you might have caught wind of this on Sorry State’s social media, but for the last few issues, we’ve been printing copies of the European hardcore zine My War to make this excellent zine available stateside at a decent price. My War covers a lot of the bands we like at Sorry State (as well as plenty of others we don’t know about), and it is one of the best executed hardcore punk zines around right now. While Sorry State’s version drops the European version’s full color print job in favor of more cost-effective black and white, the layouts are still beautiful, balanced, and legible. The real star of My War, though, is the content. Aside from a short intro piece, the entirety of My War is devoted to interviews. This isn’t some low-effort promotion circle jerk; these are detailed, substantive interviews that ask the subjects to consider—even defend—their work and their ideas. While some of those subjects are evasive (which is often still entertaining), the conversations are particularly great when people engage with those thoughtful questions, like Tadzio from Golpe or Nancy Barile. If you are a punk true believer, if you think the music we write about here is important and interesting, you should read this zine.
Beex: The Early Years 1979-1982 12” (Beach Impediment) While Beach Impediment is better known as a contemporary hardcore label, the label owner Mark is a dedicated historian and archivist of punk rock from his home state of Virginia, and documenting that history has been part of Beach Impediment’s m.o. from the very beginning. (In fact, the label’s first release was a reissue by the 80s Norfolk, Virginia hardcore band Front Line). The latest contribution to that series is this retrospective LP from Beex, an early punk band from Richmond, Virginia. While the recording dates on the two sessions captured here—1979 and 1982—might lead you to expect something different, Beex sounds more proto-punk than punk proper. Like the Dogs from Detroit and Crime from San Fransisco, Beex sounds less like kids who heard the Pistols and started a band, and more like people who took the Stones’ image circa Exile on Main Street to heart. These songs sound like bad drugs and bad attitude, with a similar sort of energetic nihilism to Iggy and the Stooges on Raw Power (just to corroborate, there’s a photo of Beex’s singer hanging out with Iggy on the inside gatefold). Those of you looking for capital P punk won’t find any leather, spikes, or studs, but lovers of bad trip rock and roll in the Detroit tradition will find plenty to love.
The Worst: The Worst of the Worst 12” (Radio Raheem Records) A few months ago I wrote my staff pick about Parts Unknown Records’ CD by the Worst, lamenting that there was no vinyl version, and now this LP is sitting here… it’s like Radio Raheem answered my prayers! The Worst are one of the great underground punk / hardcore bands, and it’s a shame they don’t have a similar level of notice and acclaim to bands like the Adolescents, Circle Jerks, the Germs, and the Zero Boys, all of whom resemble the Worst’s fusion of song-oriented punk with hardcore tempos. While the Worst sounds more like that anthemic west coast hardcore, culturally they were part of the New York punk scene, playing at Max’s Kansas City and hobnobbing with the original New York punk characters. Both their 7” and their 12” EP (both on the notorious New Jersey label Mutha Records, also home of Chronic Sick) are rippers, and they’re combined here with a well recorded live set captured at Max’s Kansas City in 1979. (This version omits the tracks from a later era of the band that appeared on the Parts Unknown CD; those were cool, but I wouldn’t call them essential.) Of course you also get Radio Raheem’s usual drop dead gorgeous packaging. If you love early 80s hardcore punk and you don’t own originals, this is a mandatory purchase in my book.
Porvenir Oscuro: Asquerosa Humanidad 12” (La Vida Es Un Mus) Debut LP from this band that has been kicking around the New York punk scene for several years, releasing a tape and a 7” previously. If you haven’t heard Porvenir Oscuro, their sound is more punk than hardcore to me. Rather than being built around heavy riffs or dramatic changes, Porvenir Oscuro’s songs coalesce around galloping, Exploited-style beats and bubbly, melodic bass with lots of catchy fills. Then out of the left channel (the guitar and bass are panned a la the first Ramones album) comes a screeching, wailing, noise-drenched guitar. You don’t notice how fucked the guitar sound is at first because it’s low in the mix, but despite the way it sits back in the mix and how drenched in distortion it is, the guitars still chime in with some catchy licks on tracks like “Violencia.” Atop all of this, the vocalist delivers rapid-fire invective in the verses that culminate in catchy, chanted choruses. Porvenir Oscuro has the straightforward catchiness of classic, Riot City Records-style punk, but dressed up with the stronger musicianship and dramatic arrangements necessary to stand toe to toe with the great hardcore bands in the world right now. This makes me think of leather, bristles, studs, acne, fists in the air, and tons of punks screaming along.
Spirito di Lupo: 4 Songs cassette (Iron Lung Records) Debut cassette from this Italian band that springs from the same fertile scene as recent bands like Kobra and Horror Vacui. Like Kobra, Spirito di Lupo has an artsy hardcore sound, like they’re angry and sound like shit for complex political and aesthetic reasons rather than just because they’re drink or bored or some similarly shallow reason. The recording is very raw and analog, with sheaths of tape hiss and room noise threatening to muffle the music, yet it’s so passionate and intense that it still cuts through, making it even more meaningful when it does. Much of Spirito di Lupo’s dynamism comes from variations in tempo and the trade-offs between two vocalists, each of whom has a distinct sound, but who come together to make a noise that is greater than the sum of its parts. There’s something coy about this tape, like it’s shy about revealing itself to the listener, but that sense of mystery pulled me in.