Click here to read about the covid-19 policies for our Raleigh shop.

SSR Picks: April 1 2021

Daniel

Before the days of aux cords and bluetooth connections, I used to listen to NPR when driving. If you’re an NPR listener, you know several times per year normal programming pauses for a pledge drive. I always understood why the pledge drive existed, but I couldn’t help being annoyed that my normal programming got interrupted. What do NPR pledge drives have to do with punk rock? Portland radio station KBOO isn’t an NPR affiliate, but they operate on a similar listener support model, and they also host one of the best punk radio shows you can find, the long-running program Life During Wartime.

You may remember that Life During Wartime put me on the air around a year ago to talk about Sorry State. I had heard about Life During Wartime before that because of the live in studio performances from bands like the Exploding Hearts and Lebenden Toten, but once I was on the show I learned how easy it was to listen to every episode, and I’ve been doing just that ever since. If you’re a podcast listener, they have a feed that you can subscribe to here. If you listen, you’ll hear lots of the music we write about at Sorry State, but you’ll also get to know the deejays (currently show founder Erin along with the Wolfman and Matt C), which is a big part of the joy of being a regular listener.

Back to pledge drives. KBOO had a pledge drive a few weeks ago, but rather than interrupt their normal programming, Life During Wartime created a special episode that’s even bigger and better than usual. I think the episode before they teased they would do a marathon Life During Wartime and I assumed they would just play cool punk records for several hours. Instead, they put together a complete history of Life During Wartime featuring interviews with past deejays and tons of tracks from the live in the studio performances they’ve hosted.

If they had chopped this marathon episode up into 30-60 minute chunks, it would have made an awesome documentary podcast like the Spotify podcast doc on the Clash or the White Stripes podcast documentary that Third Man produced. However, the history of Life During Wartime shows up in your podcast feed as one giant download, seven and a half hours in total. I can’t imagine many of you will listen to it straight through (unless you have a boring job or a long commute), but the podcast app I use allows me to pick up where I left off listening.

As for the story, it’s inspiring. Life During Wartime has accomplished something that’s one of my goals for Sorry State: to create a stable, long-running institution that serves as a platform for punks to be punk. As with long-running zines like Maximumrocknroll and long-running labels, it’s clear that tastes and priorities have changed as Life During Wartime has changed personnel and the world has changed around them, but it’s flexible enough to accommodate that. The history of an institution like Life During Wartime becomes an analog for the history of Portland punk and, of course, punk as a whole. For me, part of being a punk—in fact, one of the best things about being a punk—is contributing to and supporting institutions like Life During Wartime. So I encourage you to listen to the episode, subscribe to the feed and check out future episodes, and kick them some cash for their pledge drive if you’re able.

Jeff

What’s up Sorry Staters?

Just like always, whenever the middle of the week rolls around, I find myself unsure of what to write about for my staff pick. Rather than talk about a record that Sorry State is distroing, I decided to talk about a few records I’ve picked up for my personal collection.

Whether it’s mentioning our purchases in our weekly newsletter or bragging on social media, I think most of the employees here at the good ol’ SSR are pretty transparent about our record buying. Shamelessly, most of us don’t bat an eye at dropping big bucks on rare punk records. But lately, even with those tempting stimulus checks magically bouncing into our bank accounts, I still haven’t schemed to blow all of my money on super expensive records. Really, my recent purchases have been just the opposite.

I’ve watched a series of videos on YouTube uploaded by Mike over at Analog Attack. In these videos, Mike shows off a large stack punk 7”s he found digging in Japanese stores that are what he refers to as “bargain bin singles.” Maybe these videos inspired me, because I’ve picked up a ton of 7”s and most of them were under 5 bucks! As I’m sitting here listening to them, all I can think is sure, maybe these records are cheap, but damn, they are KILLER.

To start, a couple records I picked up are the first 2 7”s by Bay Area greats Talk Is Poison. My discovery of and obsession with hardcore began in the mid-2000’s, so I missed out on Talk Is Poison during their heyday. But even in their original incarnation, it seems like the band was a blip on the radar, only putting out a couple EP’s in the late 90s. In my old band Stripmines, I remember us being super into Deathreat, so their split EP must have been where I first heard Talk Is Poison. I’ve always thought TIP was a cool band, but over the years, there have been several instances where I’ve seen used copies of these 7”s for sale but never jumped at the opportunity to snag them. Now that it’s 2021 and I finally own these records, I’m revisiting them for the first time in years and feel like I understand how impactful they must have been when they were around. It’s funny though, the song structures and riffs almost sound kind of prog-y to me? Still intense and ripping, though.

The next 2 records I wanna talk about I probably wouldn’t have had any awareness of if it hadn’t been for Usman telling me about them. And speaking of which, some of the info I’m going to ramble about may be stuff Usman’s already dropped knowledge about in his previous staff picks.

I recently added a copy of the Mördare 7” by Swedish ragers Abuse to my collection. Released in 1996 on Crust Records, this 7” is packed tight with 10 songs of dirty d-beat madness. The record was recorded at the legendary D-Takt studios, whose sonic signature I associate with Totalitär, Disclose, and also current bands, namely my recent favorites Herätys. The primary engineer at Studio D-Takt is a dude named Jan Jutila, who also ran Your Own Jailer Records. And now, it’s time for my crude attempt at a smooth segue... By coincidence, another record I scored in the last week was the Don’t Be Numb 7” by Times Square Preachers. Now, while Jan Jutila was a member of TSP on their first 7” Nazi Raus, I’m pretty sure he had left the band and only acted as the recording engineer on this 2nd EP. Like I said before, these records are still cheap. Maybe the reason they’re so cheap is because they were released in the 90s? I don’t know. But to my ears, when you compare Times Square Preachers against other bands I associate with the Swedish hardcore stylings that have become so influential on the current hardcore scene, Don’t Be Numb sounds like a classic record.

I don’t know why I’m talking about these records, other than that I’ve been enjoying them. Maybe all you punk ass record freaks should take another dig through the marked down 7”s in your local record store. I wager some of them will be worth a lot more one day.

Thanks for reading.

‘Til next week,

-Jeff

Dominic

Hey there. How are you all doing out there? Did you get fooled or play a prank on someone? Perhaps you feel reading my part of the newsletter is an April Fools? As regular readers of the Sorry State Newsletter know by now, I am not a writer, but hopefully I communicate my passion for music and records with enthusiasm if not professional grade wordsmithery. I treat writing in the newsletter as an honor and am grateful to have the opportunity. It’s a lot of fun, as talking about records is my favorite thing to do. So, thank you for joining us each week. It means a lot.

I was chatting to a friend recently, and we both agreed the record collecting bug got to both of us at a very young age. Luckily, years ago, records were not so expensive and money earned from my paper round and early part-time jobs went a long way. I knew from the beginning that a good chunk of any disposable income I had would go towards records. I have gone without a lot of life’s luxuries over the years and have chosen to buy a record instead of groceries once or twice. It may be an addiction, but unlike regular crack, this black crack leaves you with more than just that one high. When you buy a good record, you get great music to enjoy as many times as you like, you get some information from the liner notes, you maybe get some cool and interesting artwork to look at, and you leave enhanced as a human being after the experience. Plus, you can always sell your records when you need money to buy actual crack. They are a future investment to yourself.

Anyway, records, other than friends and family, animals, and Liverpool FC have been the most important thing in my life. That is why I love working in the store so much. Being surrounded by records at home wasn’t enough. I needed to be surrounded by them at work too.

I have said this a million times: it doesn’t matter how many records you have or think you know about, there is always more that you haven’t seen or heard about. I’m the oldies guy here at Sorry State and have heard, seen, or read about loads of different records over my lifetime, but it never ceases to amaze me how many new things I discover every day. Each time we get in a collection, there is generally something I haven’t heard. That’s just the old stuff, never mind all the new releases. Then I am constantly learning from my colleagues here. They have such a great depth of knowledge on all things punk and metal and lots more besides. Are you all enjoying Usman’s pieces about Scandinavian and Japanese hardcore as much as we are? Talk about passion for music? This guy is the embodiment of passion and commitment to the music. Our 2020 mixtape and accompanying zine that came out so well (if we may say so) is chiefly down to the extra hustle and hard work from Usman. Stand up sir and take a round of applause.

Here’s one example of why I love my job and how it fulfills me in ways far more enriching than mere financial gain. In any given week we get to see all kinds of wonderful and interesting records come through the store. Contrary to popular belief, the staff does not take all the good stuff (we couldn’t afford to), but a big perk is to see, handle, and play them. That being said, when something comes in that is on our personal wants list, we get first dibs and Daniel is very generous with what he charges us. Last week Daniel bought a couple of small collections on a road trip, and in one of them was a record that I have wanted for the longest while.

It’s Brainticket: Cottonwoodhill, a Krautrock Psychedelic album from 1971. Brainticket was formed by a Belgian jazz pianist named Joel Vandroogenbroeck who became inspired by German bands like Can and Amon Duul. Apparently, this new project of his was to be called Cottonwoodhill and the album to be named Brain Ticket, but somehow things got reversed. They released three albums in the 1970s and two more in the early 1980s.

The third album from 1973 called Celestial Ocean is generally regarded as their best. Based upon The Egyptian Book Of The Dead, that record combines cosmic synth sounds with acid folk rock to great effect. If you like Gong, Ashra Temple, Tangerine Dream etc., you’ll be happy.

The second album Psychonaut is also pretty good. Trippy hippy acid folk rock with sitar and flute and other embellishments such as odd percussion and sound effects. Nice and mellow, but it has a few moments where they wig out a little. Overall, the sound is more traditional prog leaning and less psychedelic than the first and not as futuristic and cosmic as the third.

On Cottonwoodhill the lineup is different and the sound much more rooted in 1960s psychedelic rock. Vandroogenbroeck plays organ, which is the lead instrument, and flute. He is joined by drums, bass, and guitar, plus female vocals. Ironically the guitarist Ron Bryer and singer Dawn Muir were British and Vandroogenbroeck was Belgian, plus the band was based mostly in Italy and Switzerland during their time as opposed to being actual Krauts in Germany.

The album consists of two songs on side one along with the first part of Brainticket, and then the whole of side two has the completion of the Brainticket suite. Basically, a repeated Hammond organ vamp with sound effects coming in at various places and Dawn Muir’s vocals, which get more excited and agitated as the tracks build. It’s not for everyone and you won’t need to hear it that often, but it is still pretty cool and groovy.

Even on the album jacket they warn the listener, “After listening to this record your friends won’t know you anymore. Only listen once a day to this record. Your brain might get destroyed!“

Just to ram the message home on the rear of the sleeve we are told, “Listen to the first recording of this LSD/Hashish/Fixy/Jointy sound. Take a trip to your inner light. See the hallucinations of reality rise out of the groove. Join in… you’ve got the brainticket now! Hallelujah!“

Cool, count me in. Apparently this wasn’t met as keenly by the establishment at the time and upon release the record caused controversy, resulting in it being banned from several countries, including the USA. That warning along with the cover art itself was still too much for people back in 1971. Talking of the cover art. All three records have great covers well worth looking at. Celestial Ocean was released with a different cover in Italy than in Germany, and I think it is the better of the two versions. I wanted to own a copy of Cottonwoodhill because I had used it once as the base for a party flyer and I felt like I had cheated because I didn’t own the record, having just a CD. As you can see, it’s a great image and suggests the type of music you would expect. Take a look at the cover for Psychonaut; it’s pretty cool also. I’m glad to have scored a copy of Cottonwoodhill but I wouldn’t mind owning the other two. Here’s a link to the first track called Black Sand to give you an idea.

I’ll leave you to decide whether you want to take the trip and listen to the rest. My advice would be to listen at 4:20. Happy travels. See you on the other side - Dom

Usman

I’m not very knowledgeable on The Partisans, UK82, and especially ‘77. So please forgive me if I don’t know what I’m talking about. But, just cos I don’t know much about The Partisans, it does not mean I don’t absolutely love them!!! I first heard them in my teens, but oddly enough it was an EP they had released almost twenty years after their initial releases in 2001. I kind of forgot that’s how I heard them. I really liked the EP at the time. I remember it being really catchy. Not like “hardcore” how everything had to be in my life in that time, cos you know, I was a pissed off young punk with something to prove to everyone and their mother.

Alright, where to start... of course one of the first things I noticed was the $27 price tag. That’s a lot. But the second thing I noticed was the huge, thick booklet inside. The packaging is legit so sick on this release. It caught me off guard hearing a lot of cover songs on the A side, haha especially the Sex Pistols cover. But it was exciting to hear songs I had never heard before and always cool to hear songs I know well but played a bit differently on an earlier recording. If you didn’t know, this demo session has never been released before.

The B side features the entire recording session they did for the Police Story 7". The songs No Future didn’t release for that single, the band later re-recorded for the LP. Following those tracks is a demo session they did before recording the actual session used for the 17 Years of Hell 7". Like i said before, it’s always cool to hear earlier versions of songs you know and love. This record is so damn well done. The sound is good. The booklet is so cool. I haven’t had time to go all the way through it but it’s got so much great shit compiled into it. There are loads of interviews where you will learn cool shit/history of the band, tons of photos, flyers, lyrics, art, etc. It’s all-out.

To me the record is worth the cost, but if yer not super into Partisans then maybe you could pass and not trip about it later. You’ll hear a lot of stuff you’ve never heard before. (I think some songs on the B side were released on CD before but I’m not sure.) I guess there were like 800 copies pressed total of this record? Or maybe 800 black copies, I dunno. But I know, with the licensing agreement, this was the most copies they could press or something like that. Which probably means there will not be a repress. We got over a hundred copies but only have about 30 left as I write this, so do not sleep on this shit if you are thinking about grabbing this. Thanks for reading. I hope everyone is well.

Oh haha, I did want to leave you with a few quotes I’ve liked in my shallow dive into the booklet:

“We all had to learn how to play the instruments. We have had a few bass players in the band, but we have definitely settled on Louise (a bit of sex appeal in the band)”

“The Partisans are two sixteen and two seventeen year olds from Bridgend in Wales. They have been going since 1978. They say the formed because they realised that The Clash were going soft...”

Rachel

Anton LaVey: The Satanic Mass

Spoken word? Check. Weird chanting? Yes. Organ music? Duh. I love this record so much. Like all weird counter culture kids, I had an innate interest in all things Satan related. I didn’t let my lack of Christian knowledge stop me from delving deep into the world of 1990s Satanic Panic, art history depictions, the origins of the Satanic Church… I soaked it all up. I attribute it to my love of etchings and old woodcuts, black metal, bones, and most things I like now.

I’m not admitting this, but it would be hilarious if one of the first things I ever shoplifted was the Satanic Bible. I sound like a stupid edgy 2000s Hot Topic kid, but that book impacted my adolescence. I love scaring parents as much as the next, but what attracted me to Anton LaVey and the Satanic Church was the autonomy and independence it preached. I could take or leave the rituals and spells. It makes for a great record, though.

The packaging on this 2021 repress is simple but top notch. I love the liner notes; I consider it a success when I learn something new from them. I did not know that LaVey was adept at calliope! I picked up a circus calliope record from Sorry State’s Discogs- it all makes sense. If you’ve never listened to the first satanic mass, I’ve linked to it below, but listening to it on vinyl is a special treat so pick up a copy if you find one. Maybe we’ll find one for the Sorry State bins soon…

Meanwhile, this YouTube rip will do. Hail Satan!

Rich

Anybody end up scooping/scoping that GIMMICK 7” our beloved Sorry State dropped last month? Not to rake too much muck, but I’d forgive you if you didn’t check it out at all. The cover is kinda generic, and the band name doesn’t make much of an impression either. It just looks like another new punk record you’d flip or scroll past without giving a second thought. Heck, if it weren’t released by the record store 5 minutes from my house, it’s likely I’d have never heard it. Thankfully, my musical cold shoulder can’t compete with my local pride, and if a Raleigh label is gonna shell out thousands to back some PDX-ers I don’t know from Adam, I suppose I can spare a few minutes and listen to it.

And guess what… THE SHIT FUCKING RIIIPS. Building up steam with some Hunches-esque bendy guitar chords and slowburner poetic woe, it’s apparent in the first 10 seconds we’ve got new cooks in the SSR kitchen. Granted, the label has dipped its toe in all kindsa punk sub-genres through the years, but this one just hits DIFFERENT (oh, and it doesn’t sound like the Hunches at all). I hesitate to use the word “modern” because it can carry bad connotations, but Gimmick sounds pretty hip to me. With elements of Toxic State sewer punk, smartypants La Vida/Iron Lung-core and 11PM delinquent-exuberance, this 7” screams “NEW” into my rapidly degenerating ears. You’ve got your goblin-y singer and your start/stop/boom/bap drum salad and these tough-but-catchy licks all pushing and pulling and ultimately executing a super impressive, highly orchestrated racket.

The recording quality may seem suspiciously crude at first, but you’ll find this isn’t another “modern” (bad connotation implied) take on disingenuous rawness. No, Gimmick has actually made a unique SOUNDING record. The whole thing is gritty, yes, but it’s also DYNAMIC. This is partly because Gimmick’s songwriting is just that: DYNAMIC… duh. They stuff the EP with parts—quiet, loud, fast, slow, busy, crazy, lazy (sorry, I was just jamming Bone Thugs before this)—but its success is also indebted to good, old-fashioned MIXING.

While it’s easy to hit the doodoo button on a Tascam and turn your fine punk band into a finer Raw Punk© band, Gimmick makes phenomenal use of panning, EQ and tasteful, useful overdubbing. It’s very engaging to the listener and kinda reminds me of all the bricks I shit when Scotland’s late/great Anxiety first hit the scene. It’s almost as if they wrote these songs specifically with the recording process in mind. Now, maybe I’m reading too far into things and maybe this IS just another generic-looking hardcore punk record, but I don’t think that’s the case. Nah, Gimmick is really, really, REALLY good, y’all.

While on the topic of blown-to-bits precision, I’m also pretty gaga over the latest 12” EP from Chicago technoise messiah BEAU WANZER. If you’re unfamiliar with BW, dude’s been busting out the world’s best crunchyass analog electro rex since 2013. Sometimes it’s funky and sometimes it’s creepy, but it’s usually both, and it’s ALWAYS nasty. Ask me who my favorite active musician is, and three or four days a week I’m probably gonna drop the Wanz on ya.

The internet says this new “Busted and Bamboozled” came out in 2020, but I swear the above-pictured 12” didn’t complete its trip from Germany’s Ophism label to my NC crib until barely a month ago, so I’m still considering it a new release. Of course, that means nothing now because it’s no-doubt sold out anywhere you’re gonna look, but hey, maybe you’re a fellow Wanz-er and didn’t know there was a new record, so now you know! Or maybe you’re reading this and have never heard of Beau Wanzer but share his affinity for corrosive electro, gurgling monster voices and slasher flicks, SO THERE YA GO, TOO!


Leave a comment