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Featured Releases - November 11 2021

Blammo: Onomatopoeia 12” (State Laughter) State Laughter brings us the first release from this young group from Atlanta. Onomatopoeia’s beautiful DIY packaging will draw you in, but the music will keep your turntable busy, as this is unique and exciting stuff. Blammo’s minimalistic, bass-led sound might remind you of arty post-punk bands like Kleenex or As Mercenárias, but Blammo wanders out way further on the artistic ledge. The main vocalist alternates between a mocking baritone and a slurred speak-sing, often repeating incantatory phrases like “fortune favors the bold” until their meaning twists, inverts, and eventually dissolves. The rhythm section is the star of the instrumental show, grooving and hiccuping while the guitar, way back in the mix, pushes the limits of “thin and scratchy.” Blammo can be subtly poppy on a track like “Bad Advice,” but they’re as likely to be inscrutable, as they are on “The Wall.” It’s an intriguing mix, and if you like underground, contemporary art-punk like the Cochonne 12” on Sorry State or the recent album by XV we raved about, give this a shot.

Anti-Metafor: Kommuniké 12” (D-Takt & Råpunk Records) Anyone who has spent a little time with the Sorry State newsletter knows we love a straightforward hardcore ripper, but even more, I love when a band makes something unique within a genre that many assume long since ran out of ideas. On one hand, Kommuniké is definitely a d-beat record, not out of step with the typical stuff that Sweden’s mighty D-Takt & Råpunk Records puts out. On the other hand, though, it doesn’t sound quite like anything I’ve heard before. The closest point of comparison I can come up with is Montreal’s Absolut (incidentally, another D-Takt & Råpunk band). Like Absolut, Anti-Metafor doesn’t so much combine punk and metal as they exist in a liminal space where distinctions between the two genres dissolve. On the hardcore end, we have the pounding drums (right at the front of the mix, as they should be) and the harsh vocals (which remind me of Bastard), but the bass and guitar have a thin, trebly sound that is more like the production on Norwegian black metal records. The songs themselves also dance across these lines, with raging verses and choruses giving way to long instrumental passages centering on lengthy guitar leads that are at once melancholy and triumphant. It might sound like stadium crust if it had stadium sound, but that thin and trebly guitar sound again brings to mind the trance-inducing atmospherics of the Norwegian black metal scene. These subtleties might fly over the head of the d-beat novice, but those of us with a collection full of black and white covers and an inordinately large “D” section in our alphabetized stacks will appreciate what Anti-Metafor has accomplished here.

Stingray: Feeding Time 7” (La Vida Es Un Mus) LVEUM brings us the debut EP from this new London hardcore band featuring Tin Savage, whose artwork you know from countless underground hardcore releases over the past several years, on vocals. With a membership that pulls from the New Wave of British Hardcore’s A-list, Stingray has a heavy, powerful hardcore sound that shows more than a little crossover peeking in around the edges. While that’s not too different in principle from what Power Trip (and the loads of bands they have influenced) do, Stingray’s take on crossover has none of that Bay Area Thrash polish, sounding more like the bands from mid and late 80s New York who had a grittier, nastier take on the sound. Feeding Time makes me think of records like Agnostic Front’s Cause for Alarm and Crumbsuckers’ Life of Dreams, but with the jackhammer production that you hear in the best underground hardcore of today rather than the (often awkward) bigger-budget studio recordings on those records. Totally punishing.

Dorothy: I Confess / Softness 7” (Sealed Records) Sealed Records digs up another obscurity, and this time it’s the one-off single by Dorothy, whose sole single came out on Throbbing Gristle’s label, Industrial Records. Along with Dorothy (who played drums in the band Rema Rema under her middle name, Max), the lineup on this single includes Genesis P’Orridge and Alex Fergusson, who would shortly form the group Psychic TV. (According to Discogs, Dorothy / Max was also invited to join Alternative TV but declined, though she briefly joined the group many years later.) “I Confess” sounds to me like a novelty pop song, its primitive synthesizer and faux-naïve vocals sounding like something they’d play a clip of in a documentary about punk to stand in contrast to the “authenticity” and “realness” of the new punk scene. This being Genesis P’Orridge, there is an element of subversion, though. The song’s lyrics are a Catholic-style confession in which the singer owns up to liking the things teenage girls like—boys and pop music—though there are hints of seediness, like the “magazines in shrink-wrapped covers.” Like Crass’s “Our Wedding,” it sounds like a troll, but also a total earworm. The b-side is probably a little more palatable to your average Industrial Records fan. While the synth sounds are still a little cheesy, the tough-sounding disco beat make it a secret weapon in any goth night DJ set.

Jack Pitt: Forever Punk photo book Forever Punk collects the work of UK-based photographer Jack Pitt, spanning the years 2011 to 2020. While Pitt was based in the UK during much of this time, he also spent some time in Vancouver and attended a bunch of important punk fests during this period, so rather than a document of a local or regional scene, Forever Punk feels more like a comprehensive overview of the underground punk and DIY scenes over the past decade. The bands Pitt was seeing are right in line with the stuff Sorry State covers, and you’ll see lots of our favorites represented here, from Torso to Extended Hell to Framtid to Public Acid, along with legions of other bands… the book is 230 pages, with several page spreads featuring multiple photos. Pitt also includes a few pieces of reflective writing about his photographic process and how it has developed alongside various changes in the punk scene. While these pieces are brief, they color the way I look at the photographs, giving them more of a documentary feel than your typical punk rock live shots. Anyone who closely follows underground punk and hardcore will enjoy Forever Punk’s documentation of the scene, but photography nerds (and/or people who really enjoy Razorblades and Aspirin zine) will get the most out of Forever Punk.

Vatican Commandos: Just a Frisbee 7” (Radiation) Vatican Commandos released their humorously titled Just A Frisbee 7” the same year as their debut Hit Squad For God in 1983. Even in the small time between these releases, the band went through some serious changes. Firstly, Moby is no longer in the band and is replaced by guitarist Mike Pollock. With their Connecticut hardcore elders CIA at the helm as producers, you can hear a lot of the CIA influence creeping its way into Vatican Commandos’ sound. Decidedly less raw and turbulent, the band heads in an even more anthemic, sing-along direction that there was an inkling of on their first EP. The band doesn’t seem to fear musical experimentation, incorporating some funky bass lines and auxiliary percussion from time to time. Predominantly mid-tempo songs feature light-hearted lyrical themes about cow-tipping and the like. The final track on the EP, “Let Down Again,” is a fast-paced ripper more akin to the first 7”. Just A Frisbee is a different beast than the ferocious first EP, but still a stone cold US hardcore classic with a plenty of ear candy and catchy riffs. Not to mention, the cover art was drawn by a young Rob Zombie. Pretty wild. Vatican Commandos were just a blip on the radar, only releasing one more 12” EP before disbanding in 1985. Definitely worth grabbing this EP if you’re a fan of the more melodic side of 80s US hardcore.

Soup Activists: Riling Up the Neighbors cassette (self-released) I saw this tape being passed around the digital punkosphere, and when I checked it out, I was really surprised. The first track Soup Activists hit us with is “Subdivision,” a pretty conventional, poppy punk song that deals with familiar punk subject matter. Its zippy tempo and off-key vocals remind me of the many bands who emulated their Screeching Weasel records in the 90s, but after that first track, Soup Activists go in very different directions. Tracks like “TVs in the Orchard” and “Q+A at Disneyland” remind me of the Dead Milkmen with their thin, jittery sound and lyrics and vocals that toe the line between sarcastic and more introverted and heartfelt. However, “I Surrender,” “Plenty of Garbage,” and “Send Me a Butterfly” stray even further from the conventional punk template. “I Surrender” is a pain-drenched ballad built around emotive vocals and a melodic, descending riff, and while it reminds me of UKDIY groups like Cleaners from Venus or the Television Personalities, the presentation differs totally from the anglophilic groups who take inspiration from those bands. For instance, Soup Activists rely on a similar aesthetic framework as Itchy Bugger, but the presentation here is even more raw and ragged. While I can dig deep into my record collection for a few reference points, Soup Activists sound nothing like anything I’ve been listening to for the past several years. I’m sure some people will hate something that sounds so different, many people will ignore it, but I could also see this clicking with a large contingent of people and starting a whole new trend.

New Vogue: Volume 2 12” (Casbah Records) Canada’s New Vogue caught my ear with their two cassette releases, and now the latest of those, Volume 2, has been pressed on vinyl. Here’s what we had to say about the cassette when it came out: “I flipped over New Vogue’s previous cassette when it came out back in 2018, and this follow-up reminds me why I love this band so much. New Vogue reminds me of bands like GG King, ISS, Predator, and Blood Visions-era Jay Reatard, all of whom bring to noisy punk a talent for writing dark pop songs. This self-titled tape (like their previous one), is just hit after hit. Take a track like “Safe on the Autobahn,” which starts with a brooding bass line and robotic-sounding verses, leads into a pre-chorus section that builds the tension and introduces a little melody, then—BAM!—explodes into an anthemic chorus. I can’t help but yell along, “I feel safe on the autobahn / I feel safe!” As I do this, my mind wanders to seeing Jay Reatard several times throughout 2007 and 2008 and doing the same thing along with “My Shadow” and “Nightmares.” And as I let the track play through, I’m reminded “Safe on the Autobahn” also has whole different middle eight and outro sections that are just as good as the other parts… and tracks like “Birdman” and “Reptile” are just as great. I can’t get over how awesome this tape is. Get this now, but someone needs to step up and give the world some New Vogue vinyl.”

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