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SSR Picks: April 8 2021

Daniel

The Worst: The Worst of the Worst CD (Parts Unknown Records, 2004)

Here’s a peek behind the SSR curtain: I spend all day Wednesday drafting the Record of the Week and Featured Releases descriptions for the newsletter, then when I wake up on Thursday morning I throw together my staff pick at the last minute. Sometimes I know what my staff pick will be ahead of time, but often what I just scan my “recently listened” pile and see what I feel like writing about.

This week I noticed this CD reissue by New Jersey’s the Worst sitting near my stereo. I listened to a podcast yesterday in which Brian from Night Birds talked at length about the Worst, and that’s close enough to serendipity in my book. So here we are.

The Worst of the Worst compiles four sessions by New Jersey’s the Worst: their self-titled 7” and Expect the Worst 12” (both on legendary New Jersey label Mutha Records), a 6-song “unreleased LP,” and a 1979 live gig from Max’s Kansas City. It’s a lot of music, but it’s all worth hearing.

The Worst was unique in that they played with the big sound and blistering tempos of early 80s hardcore, but their sound was rooted in the nihilistic punk of the Stooges circa Raw Power and the Dead Boys.

As the date on that live set hints, the Worst started early in the game and gigged in the late 70s NYC punk scene (particularly at Max’s) until they were essentially banned and retreated to their home turf of South Jersey. There they joined the scrappy scene around Mutha Records, playing alongside fellow Mutha bands like Fatal Rage and Chronic Sick. Despite jumping scenes, the Worst’s sound stayed the same, and even the unreleased 2nd LP tracks on this CD have that mix of early hardcore speed and power and punk sleaze (though, having lost their original vocalist, they aren’t quite up to par with the released records).

The story of how the Worst got banned in New York is worth repeating. I wouldn’t say it’s the Worst’s claim to fame (the music on their two records is claim enough in my book), but it’s significant. As the tale goes, someone affiliated with the Worst’s camp (in Stuart Schrader’s excellent liner notes for this CD, it’s a roadie; in Brian’s account from the podcast, it’s the guitarist) was hanging out in NYC in a party that included Sid Vicious and Nancy Spungen. Sid was whining for drugs and the aforementioned Worst affiliate was elected to go score. They completed their task, returning to the party with enough drugs for the entire room, but Sid commandeered the stash, took it all, and overdosed. (This isn’t the overdose that killed Sid; it was one of the earlier ones that almost killed him.) The Worst were already on thin ice with NYC clubs thanks to their singer’s Iggy-inspired antics, and almost killing a punk icon was the straw that broke the camel’s back, making them personae non grata in the NYC scene.

It’s kind of crazy that, aside from a dodgy bootleg in the early 00s, we haven’t seen any vinyl reissues by the Worst. I would love to have vinyl copies of their Mutha releases, both of which are top shelf punk records. The 7” is a little punkier and catchier, and the songs (particularly the anthemic “High Velocity”) stand toe to toe with the Dead Boys’ nastiest recordings. Things get more straightforward on Expect the Worst, which has an FU’s-type punk-informed-hardcore sound, and while this flattens out some of the dynamism in the songwriting, that’s counterbalanced by the more vicious playing style. While this CD’s booklet notes there were 1,000 copies pressed of the Worst’s 7” and 2,500 copies of the 12”, the records are difficult to find and sell for north of $500. I’m skeptical there are 2,500 copies of the LP out there given how infrequently it turns up, but at least that number gives me some hope of laying my hands on one.


Jeff

What’s up Sorry Staters?

I’m not sure if Daniel drew your attention to what I’m going to talk about in this edition of the newsletter or not, but here we go anyway…

Recently, the team here at Sorry State started doing a bit of housekeeping around the shop. For a good while now, we’ve had a few long boxes of used punk 7”s that have just sat around, either because they weren’t selling at the store or because we just never got around to pricing them (whoops!).

The other day, I dove into dealing with all these records. I brought a few of these 7” boxes to our warehouse location, and I’ve been slowly but surely listing them for sale on our Discogs page. Daniel came up to me at one point and asked if he could flip through the 7”s in the box I was getting ready to look through. Even though most of the records in this box were nothing super crazy or rare, Daniel and I were both surprised and erupted simultaneously, “Man, there’s some cool shit in here!”

One record Daniel pointed out to me was a 7” by this band Fogna. I had never heard of them, but the cover art invoked me with an ominous glow that I could have sworn whispered, “I fuckin’ rule. Listen to me.” And so I did, and of course this record was right up my alley. Fogna only released this one record in 2009. Funny enough, it was initially self-released by the band on CD-R only. Thankfully, it was re-released properly as a 7”, which was limited to 300 copies, and each 100 of those 300 were on a different color vinyl (this copy is on clear, SCORE!).

The record opens by slowly luring you in with goosebump-inducing noise and sudden distant grunts that made me feel like I should prepare for some power electronics or something. I imagined being in a dark club with blacklights flashing while dark figures emerge from a cloud of smoke. But as I was losing patience, waiting damn near 3 minutes for the alluring smoke from the FOGna machine (see what I did there?) to clear, the music finally kicked in. I realized I was in for some killer, but dark and nasty, hardcore.

I hate to make this comparison immediately because it’s almost too obvious, but the atmosphere of the music and particularly the vocals remind me of La Tua Morte Non Aspetta-era Wretched. Have I used this record as a comparison in my staff picks before? Oh well, I don’t care. I really do get that vibe. Everything feels like Groundhog Day right now. And even making that comparison, I wouldn’t say this perceived layer of darkness is exactly goth-sounding, but what can I say? This record makes me feel that slow thump of the heart and spine-tingling sensation of macabre suspense one might find while watching a Vincent Price monologue. I’m kidding, but yeah, this record is a tad spooky. The guitars are chorus-drenched with a sophisticated sense of dissonance, kind of like Die Kreuzen. But the rhythms are more barbaric and evil, almost like proto-black metal or something? This record has a lot going on. And still, I find it all fits together like a tightly wrapped, blood-soaked package.

The production has this cold, austere feeling to it. Not quite like a robot, but sort of… synthetic. And as I kept listening, it occurred to me: those are NOT real drums! So it turns out, Fogna is only two people from Sicily. And side-note—I don’t know if they sing in proper Sicilian language rather than Italian, but the vocals sound a lot like Italian hardcore to me. Does anyone know if these two folks played in any other bands? But anyway, I looked at the credits on the sleeve and it clearly reads: one person plays bass and sings, the other person does guitar and DRUM MACHINE. But honestly, I find this record so captivating and think the music is so cool that this discovery doesn’t even bother me.

I told Daniel I wanted the record, and I brought it home. I’ve listened to it 5 or 6 times already since I’ve been writing this. Another non-expensive gem found and added to the collection. Hell yeah!

Thanks for reading.

‘Til next week,

-Jeff


Dominic

What’s up everyone? How are you? Not sure about where you are but here in Raleigh we went from winter to summer overnight (typical North Carolina weather) and this being the City Of Oaks, we are now knee deep in yellow pollen. Fine if you drive a yellow car and dress in yellow and are not affected with allergies. For the rest of us, it can be a pain. However, what it does signal is that spring is here and the sunshine and warmer weather has me reaching for my Latin, Reggae, Afro, and Brazilian records.

Talking of Brazil, we have started to stock titles from the UK label Mr. Bongo, whose focus is on Brazilian and world music with some jazz, soul, and funk titles also. They reissue rare and out of reach albums but also put out a fantastic compilation series called the Mr. Bongo Record Club which is into its fourth volume now. For those that are seeking rare groovy gems, retro and contemporary, this series is a must. Check them out.

Mr. Bongo have reissued so many great albums over the past few years. One of my earlier staff picks was the Os Brazoes album from Brazil, which they did. An awesome Afro-funk album they have is the Funky Rob Way album by Rob. Originally released in Ghana in 1978 and well worth investigating and one we brought into the store. Check this:

A terrific record that Mr. Bongo has reissued twice now and helped make known is one by Swedish singer Doris: her lone solo album from 1970 called Did You Give The World Some Love Today Baby that appeared on the Swedish Odeon label. It’s a jazzy, groovy pop record at heart, but it has three tracks in particular that DJs, producers, and record collectors all clammer for. Those tracks, Don’t, Beatmaker and You Never Come Closer are golden. I have always had a soft spot for this type of sound. Cool femme vocals over a funky, beat laden arrangement. In the late sixties and early seventies there was a sort of big band renaissance, especially in Europe. If you are familiar with Johnny Harris the British band leader and his work with Lulu, Tom Jones, and Shirley Bassey and particularly his own album Movements from 1970, then you should have an idea of the sound on the Doris album. I first heard a DJ play the cut You Never Come Closer as part of the warm-up for a gig I was attending back in the early 90s. It struck a chord with me instantly, but I didn’t know who it was until a year later when I picked up a compilation and the track was on there. Owning an original of the album was out of the question, so I had to wait until 1998 when it got its first reissue. It has always served me well at DJ gigs. Here’s a link:

April, in case you hadn’t heard, is Jazz Appreciation Month and we are all encouraged to investigate, listen to and read about Jazz. That’s not a problem for me as I listen to Jazz every day. I typically enjoy my morning coffee whilst listening to an album and have a decent sized Jazz collection to pick from each day. At the store we have a pretty good Jazz section too and the other day I was playing a record that I have a copy of already but just enjoy listening to. It’s one by Eddie Harris called Excursions that was released in 1973 on Atlantic. I’m a big fan of records that punch well above their weight, and this is definitely one of those. The sort of record that if it had been recorded by an unknown artist and released on an obscure small label would have collectors forking out big bucks for a copy. I think we sold the copy I was playing in the store for $15. A friend of the store was in shopping and he recognized what I was playing and liked the record too. He bought it as it was an upgrade on his copy. I think we still have another copy in the store for someone. The record is a double and includes material from a few years earlier in addition to the 1973 material. For those unfamiliar with Eddie Harris, briefly, he was born in Chicago and popularized the use of an electrically amplified saxophone, although he also played keyboards. He had a hit with the song Listen Here that appeared on his Electrifying Eddie Harris album from 1967 and later in partnership with Les McCann recorded the live set Swiss Movement at the Montreux Jazz Festival. That album was successful and became one of the best-selling Jazz records ever. On Excursions the sound is funky and in places like on lead track Drunk Man has some weirdness that you don’t typically hear on a jazz record. For the drunk man vocal sound Eddie sang into his horn and amplified electronically his voice through various gadgets. Several of the musicians on the date were young, up-and-coming performers who, although mostly barely past twenty, had already become in demand players. Drummer Leon Chancler stands out. He was only twenty yet had played on countless sessions already by this point, as had piano player Larry Nash who at the time of these recordings was also just twenty yet was already working as musical director for singer Merry Clayton. On the older cuts, names on the musician list include Ron Carter, Melvin Jackson and Billy Higgins to name three you may have heard of. The majority of the older material was taken from the Electrifying sessions, but two cuts date all the way back to 1966. You’d think it would be very inconsistent as a result, but the title of the album is Excursions, and it is meant to be a trip through time and the mind of Eddie Harris, and I think does just that. Highly recommended. Check out Drunk Man:

Lastly, to continue with the Jazz but on a Latin tip, a record by the prolific Quartette Tres Bien and their album called Boss Tres Bien from 1964 on the Norman Records label. This was one of a dozen records the combo cut in the sixties and if you enjoy Ramsey Lewis, Billy Larkin & the Delegates, Afro-Blues Quintet, and Young Holt Unlimited, you will love these guys. It’s accessible music that is both pop and hip at the same time. What we might term Mod Jazz.

All of their records are pretty easy to find and shouldn’t be very expensive, and each has at least one or two really good cuts on it. They mostly recorded for Decca but have one album on Atlantic and the first couple on Norman. This album was their third and first for Decca, but oddly my copy has the cover for the first album and is still on the Norman label. So, they must have had some arrangement to release on both labels. I’m not sure how that came about, but it is interesting. Anyway, money track is the title cut Boss Tres Bien, which has a cool and lush Latin vibe to it. Perfect for sunny days whilst sipping on a refreshing beverage. It’s been a DJ track for me and never fails to get heads nodding and folks in the right mood. Check it out:

Well, there you go. That’s your lot for this week. Plenty for you to investigate and explore. As usual, there is more detailed information available if you are curious. I hope I picked out at least one thing you can dig and groove on. Music is subjective and each of us has our own relationship with it. Time and place, I always say. Music is mood and when the mood of the music meets ours at the right moment and in the right circumstances, it can be so uplifting and magical. As music junkies, we all know that feeling. I have felt it with all the records I talk about and just want other people to experience that also. I humbly hope you will find something to enjoy and I thank you for reading. See you next time.

Cheers - Dom


Usman

Okay, anyone that knows me probably predicted I would pick this record as my Staff Pick. But even if you know me well, maybe you didn’t know how much I had been anticipating this release. Nervous SS is a band from Macedonia. It’s actually a solo project, just like Rat Cage. I first heard Nervous SS cos Blagoj from the band hit up the Bunker Punks email praising Scarecrow and asking if we wanted to do a split. Haha, I guess we could’ve been Rat Cage in this case... maybe we fucked up. Jeff and I thought Nervous SS was killer. We had never heard of the band before, but we aren’t super into the idea of split releases with our band. I responded to Blagoj telling him we thought his band ruled but would have to pass on the idea. Instead I proposed another idea to him... soon after, Bunker Punks released a US version of his then-current full length Future Extinction. This LP had just been released on D-Takt & Råpunk Records, so it felt really cool to do a release that D-Takt had originally done. We had just began forming a relationship with Jocke from D-Takt around that time too, cos he had released the European pressing of Scarecrow’s Revenge E.P. As much as I hate the internet, I am so grateful to develop relationships with people overseas as a result.

Okay maybe I’ll talk about the split a bit? I like Rat Cage, but I’m not crazy about them. I have all their records, I think. They go hard, and they go fast. It’s honestly killer shit, but the riffing doesn’t always do it for me. It’s catchy, but not in the ways my ears perk up to. That said, I think this Rat Cage material is the best so far. Some of his songs are so fast and locked-in on this split, I like just can’t… got damn, it rages. Nervous SS.... I wasn’t sure what to expect, aside from Totalitär-esque riffing. Blagoj knows exactly what the fuck he is doing. When the record is over, I am bummed. I’ve listened to it almost every day since I got it, and sometimes I play the Nervous SS side a few times in a row. The artwork on this split is SICK. It’s the same artist Rat Cage has featured for previous releases. It’s cool too cos the covers are printed in like a shiny silver ink. Each band finishes their side with a cover song of a not-so-hardcore band, a nice touch. To me, it’s hard to have a split where both sides are compelling listens. I think this split qualifies and deserves a place in every record collection.

Okay, I’m tired and I have a lot of work to do so I’m gunna stop here, but I wanted mention something else. I can’t remember how I discovered this band, but I’ve had this tape downloaded for a handful of years. When I first heard it I became obsessed. I do not like metal, so this is a big deal for me, haha. Of course I tried to find out more about the band when I found them, but couldn’t find a damn thing! This tape doesn’t even exist on Discogs. I have seen two photos of them online, so I know it is real haha.

I think this band is the same band as Valkyrie, the all-woman metal band from Japan but I’m not 100% certain. I saw the other day someone had uploaded a full rip of the tape! Very cool. Yet another time I like the internet... now I can tell people to check em out, rather than before when I had to play my own download at em haha. I haven’t met a single person yet who knew who this band was prior to me sharing the info, but each person who hears it thinks it rules also! Maybe that’s just cos I’m not friends with any metal-heads... Anyway, if you like metal, or don’t, check it out. Thanks for reading my words. ‘Til nex time...


Rachel

Weed: A Rare Batch (Classic Jazz Vocals)

Anyone remember way back when I started in October (god has it been that long? I still feel like such a newb here)? My first staff pick was one of my favorite records, “Youth Against Drugs.” As much as I love laughing at that sort of stuff, it is the product of a much darker aspect to American history and current policy. The War on Drugs might not produce the overdramatized warnings like it did when that record came out in 1971 but it’s still the reason our prisons are bursting at the seams, lives are being ruined and lost, an entire industry is being stunted.

I also work for a local CBD company, and have been cannabis-adjacent for most of my professional life and being heavily steeped in this budding (haha that was on purpose) industry is equal parts exciting and fucking FRUSTRATING. I watched my white passing boss rent storefronts and make products with relative ease while black and brown business owners were being raided and stopped by governmental red tape. There are people sitting in North Carolina prisons for selling the same thing you can get at a bougie dispensary on the West Coast. Meanwhile, I’ve spent most of the past two years selling something that is only a few chemicals different from what’s illegal here. My hope for NC (and the rest of the country) to wisen up has waxed and waned over the years but the past few legalization announcements have me a bit hopeful.

I could go on but this is supposed to be about music. I’m patiently waiting for some Discogs purchases that I can’t wait to write about so I dug into my compilations this week as I wait. Thinking about legalization, pulling a shift or two at the CBD store...I guess I was drawn to this record this week. I love this comp so much; couldn’t say no to a joint holdin’ grandma! I didn’t know any of these artists when I purchased this but every single song is so good. I obviously looked up the record label almost immediately; with a name like Stash, I was excited to see what they released. Unfortunately their discography is far from extensive but I’ve definitely added the majority of it to my want list. I’ve linked to a playlist with the tracks so definitely give it a listen if jazz vocals about weed is your thing.


Rich

Any Nervous Gender fans in the house? If so, you gotta peep this new mini-doc on YouTube.

Part 4 of an “EASTSIDE PUNKS” series chronicling L.A.’s woefully under-documented OG Hispanic punk presence (Thee Undertakers, The Brat, Stains), this 18-minute go-round drops tons of hot goss on one of the worlds’s finest, most outlandishly dark industrial/synth/punk groups EVER.

I’ve been interested in freaker music for about as long as I can remember, but few records get me as nightmarishly hot and bothered as Nervous Gender’s sole 1981 LP, “Music from Hell.” Such sounds! Such lyrics! And, good God, check that layout!

Over the band’s initial late 70s/early 80s run, a motley hodgepodge of queer Latinx artists, British weirdos, androgynous lesbians, 8-year-old drummers and local scenesters (Screamers, Germs, 45 Grave, Wall of Voodoo, etc.) forced audiences down psychotropic rabbit holes of clinks, clanks and all kindsa gross body stuff. Now, finally, there’s a hi-res pro/am video to shed light on it all!

Takeaway no. 1: Nervous Gender was from Los Angeles, NOT the Bay Area. I always assumed due to the group’s bizarre synthesizer hellscapes and Subterranean Records association that it had to be from somewhere around San Francisco, but duuuuhhhh… I was wrong. Anyway, there’s a lot of cool info, interviews, videos and pics included, so I highly recommend checking the aforeposted YouTube link on your next lunch break.

I would also use this space to link you to a stream for the new MNK PROJECT collection LP on F.O.A.D. Records, but the world has yet to deem the internet worthy of this HYPER RARE Japanese punk HYPERRARITY in any sort of digital format. Excessive capital letter usage aside, I can’t stress the obscureness of MNK Project enough. You ain’t gonna find this band in the Flex! book, and I don’t think the Discogs page that lists its unobtanium sole 7” even existed until last year.

So, before I get too carried away, there IS a promo video for this LP with one song on YouTube HERE. Go ahead and open that in a new tab and let the tune wash over you. I know a lot of folks’ appreciation of Japanese punk starts and stops with Gauze, G.I.SM. and a handful of Burning Spirits bands, but if the words “ADK Records” mean anything to you, PAY ATTENTION: MNK Project is the chronological followup to the band Gaddess (aka Goddess) from the legendary “ADK Omnibus Vol. 1” compilation.

Now, I don’t expect most people to ride my wave, but as far as I’m concerned, that first ADK comp is thee greatest Japanese punk release of all time. It’s raw as hell and exciting from start to finish, and each of the four bands brings a unique flavor of fucked-up-ness to the party: 1. Sodom is totally crunched-out nihilism, 2. Sekinin Tenka blends atonal art with pogo-y punk, 3. Cain churns out a wild’n’warped game-show new wave, and—finally— 4. Gaddess makes seriously unsettling, shrieky and BRUTAL no wave.

It always struck me just how gnarly and mysterious the band sounded… sometimes thrashing… other times sulking… but always PAINED, even when approaching some approximation of catchiness. It’s just really radical (as in “extreme”) sounding music. Then, the group’s insert photo is a happy teenage friend group hugging and smiling in a field! Of course Throbbing Gristle got there first, but props to Gaddess for playing with such polar aural/visual dispositions.

With MNK Project, some small amalgam of former Gaddess members (I have no clue, tbh) gathered to produce a five-song 7” in 1985 that was “allegedly” limited to 100 copies and never distributed. WHAT. A. SHAME. The EP, which comprises the entire A-side of this F.O.A.D. comp, throws an incy bit of sheen on Gaddess’ ominous punk and whateverwave to produce absolutely THRILLING hardcore-adjacent feminine bursts one could see appealing to fans of ADK Records hardpunk, early Sonic Youth or even Brix-era The Fall.

Things continue in this direction with the unreleased (c’mon, this is all pretty much all unreleased) eight tracks that make up the B-side, even getting a little more commercially palatable at times, and NOT in a bad way.

Basically, this record is kinda blowing my mind. I expected to like it, but I didn’t expect to LOVE it like I have. I’ve probably spun this thing 20 times in the past week, which is pretty nuts for my microscopic attention span. Well, actually this kinda skronk may be PERFECT for a microscopic attention span and that’s why it’s sticking so hard? At any rate, GET THIS RECORD. I think I hassled the big man at Sorry State enough to pick up some copies, so keep your eyes peeled. Peace!


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