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SSR Picks: December 9 2021

English Dogs: Forward Into Battle 12” (L.M. Records, 1985)

At the time I picked up the S.I.B. album I wrote about last week, I also snagged this release on the same label: the original Italian pressing of the English Dogs’ second album, Forward Into Battle. It was still sealed, only cost a few bucks, and I didn’t own Forward Into Battle already, so I threw it in my cart to make the European shipping sting a little less. The most notable thing about this pressing is the atrocious cover art. I’m not sure what designer Bosi Maddalena was thinking, but I don’t think you could get any further from the English Dogs’ vibe if you tried. The colors, the typefaces, the silhouettes of people dancing like they’re at a hippie drum circle… really, WTF?

The cover art is a curiosity, but thankfully the music in the grooves is the same as other pressings. I’ve fallen hard for English Dogs—well, this era of the band anyway—over the past year. I know I’ve owned at least one English Dogs record before that (Mad Punx and English Dogs, which was lost to a purge long ago), but they never clicked with me until earlier this year when Bomb-All Records reissued their 1984 EP To the Ends of the Earth. Usman and Jeff were excited about that reissue when it came in, so I took it home and was totally blown away.

On both To the Ends of the Earth and Forward Into Battle, English Dogs are the perfect amalgamation of metal and punk. The songs barrel forward with the energy of my favorite UK82 punk, but the riffs are more thrash metal than punk. Those riffs are always inventive and memorable, the shredding lead guitars are flashy and melodic without being wanky, and the vocals are mean as hell yet build to explosive chant-along choruses, particularly on tracks like “To the Ends of the Earth” and “Wall of Steel.” I didn’t know it until I was doing research to write this piece, but the vocalist on this album is Ade Bailey, who joined the English Dogs after his previous band, Ultra Violent, split up. The Ultra Violent single is one of the best punk records ever, and the venomous vocal hooks on these records seem less surprising knowing of Bailey’s involvement.

My reading about the English Dogs also gave me more of a handle on their lineup changes. It turns out that after their first album, Invasion of the Porky Men, English Dogs retooled their lineup, adding Bailey on vocals alongside Destructors guitarist Graham Butt, who brought those tasty metal licks I love so much. This lineup continued for the Metalmorphosis EP and Where Legend Began album in 1986. I have Where Legend Began and, while it has its moments, it’s not as good as To the Ends of the Earth or Forward Into Battle. Those records remind me of Kill ‘em All era Metallica because of their explosive energy, anthemic songwriting, and dense, excitement-filled arrangements, but Where Legend Began ventures further into the more bloated and less energetic ends of thrash metal.

That’s where I’m at on my English Dogs journey so far. If anyone has thoughts on the records I haven’t explored yet, please let me know! Often records that underwhelm on the first listen become favorites when I hear them through the ears of someone who loves them.


What’s up Sorry Staters?

By the time you’re reading this, I’ll already be on a flight to the City of Angels. Pretty wild. I’m stoked for Lie Detector fest and all the antics the other Acid Headz and I will be getting into. I won’t be back until Tuesday, so much appreciation for Rachel, Dom and Usman for holding down the fort.

I’m sure you’re all aware by now, but NYC punk maniacs Vivisected Numbskulls finally made the jump to the vinyl format. Fuck yeah! Chaotic Uprising’s smattering of releases always have a definitive vibe with the sound and presentation of their releases, and Vivisected Numbskulls feels like the flagship band for the label. The stark, black & white, photocopied a million times aesthetic has continued to grab my attention. I loved both of the band’s tapes, and now I’m stoked to spin this slab. Underneath the wall of filthy distortion and pounding UK82 pogo punk song arrangements, the band always incorporates strange, eerie and ethereal layers of noise and sound samples. On this new EP Swine In Chains, I think the band has really found the perfect balance. Sure, you can categorize this band’s fist-clenching brand of hardcore for what it is: crude and gruesome. But contrary the band self-proclaiming as an “awful racket,” I feel like the end product is creative, captivating and so well-executed. Sorry State got a big ol’ stack of these EPs, so don’t sleep on this rager.

That’s all I’ve got. As always, thanks for reading. See ya on the left coast.

‘Til next week,

-Jeff


Hey there, Sorry State Gang. It’s good to be back writing in these pages after missing last week’s newsletter. I had my Covid-19 booster along with a flu shot and it knocked me out for the best part of a day and a half. Feeling much better now and not looking forward to getting the next booster. Can we be done with this damn thing already?

The week before was Thanksgiving week and of course the dreaded Black Friday sales weekend. The perceived wisdom is that there wasn’t too much to get excited over on the Record Store Day releases, but I don’t know; I thought there were some good titles worth grabbing. The Jimi Hendrix Experience live in Paris was cool. The Wailing Souls album with bonus 12” also very cool. I thought the compilation of dark and heavy psychedelic soul from Now & Again had some good stuff on it. There were some other things too that interested me, but with a hold pile building up and an empty pantry at home, my funds were and are needed elsewhere. LOL.

As we approach the holidays and gift buying season, we have been doing our best to stuff the bins at the store with as many good records as we can. We have been buying collections and processing them like nobody’s business and have so many awesome records for our in-store customers. Get yourself down here if you can.

One collection that Daniel bought has certainly put me in a lot of trouble. It contained among other things a lot of good 1970s UK Jazz and Prog albums and I wish I could have bought most of them. I pulled out a couple of tasty biscuits for myself, which once they officially become mine, I’ll feel good about talking about and will feature in a future staff pick, perhaps.

One that I have bought and is mine now was a copy of Inside Out by Eddie Henderson on Capricorn Records from 1974. It’s a nice jazz fusion LP and his second album as a band leader. As I have some of his other records in my collection already and like them a lot, it seems like talking about him here in the newsletter would be a good idea as I am sure there are plenty of you out there who like your jazz as well as your punk.

Eddie Henderson plays trumpet and flugelhorn and made a string of great records in the 1970s that all have their merits. His career certainly didn’t end there as he continued making records well into the 2000s and garnering critical praise as he went along. It is those records from the 70s that are considered his prime years by most and have become quite collectable.

Before getting into talking about those records, it is worth noting what an amazing and accomplished human being Eddie Henderson is. His biography is quite outstanding.

Born in New York City in 1940 to show business parents, Dad was a singer in popular group The Charioteers and Mum was a dancer in the original Cotton Club. Exposed to music at a young age, he famously received a lesson from Louis Armstrong aged nine. At fourteen, his family moved to San Francisco where later he studied at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music.

However, music wasn’t the only thing on his mind. Henderson went on to study medicine. His step-father was a doctor who had several jazz legends as patients, including John Coltrane, Duke Ellington and Miles Davis. Miles was a friend of the family and stayed over on his west coast trips and mentored Eddie on his musical studies. Davis certainly had a huge influence on Henderson. His fusion of jazz styles with other music fascinated the young Henderson and years later he would make very similar records to that of his mentor.

Henderson’s medical schooling began after his three-year stint in the Air Force ended in 1961 at the University of California, Berkeley, although not before he also competed as a figure skater, becoming the first African American to compete for a national title. He left Berkeley with a B.S. in Zoology and continued at Howard University, Washington D.C., graduating in 1968. Whilst at Howard he made regular trips to New York to watch and play with the musicians there. He was friends with both Freddie Hubbard and Lee Morgan and took tips from both.

Intending to carry on his career as a doctor with emphasis on psychiatry, he returned to San Fran for an internship and residency, during which he scored a weeklong gig playing with Herbie Hancock’s Mwandishi band. This led to him joining the band and playing on three Herbie Hancock records over the next three years beginning with Mwandishi from 1971, then Crossings in 1972 (both on Warner Brothers Records), and finally Sextant on Columbia from 1973. It was with these same Mwandishi musicians that Henderson recorded his first two albums as leader. The first came in 1973 with Realization released on Capricorn Records and the second the following year, which is the Inside Out album I snagged. If you are a fan of those Herbie records and enjoy that style of electronic Jazz-Fusion, then there is lots to love with the Henderson albums. As I mentioned before, Miles Davis was a huge influence on Henderson, and you wouldn’t be wrong thinking you were listening to a Bitches Brew session or another of Miles’ great late 1960s and early 1970s recordings. They really are that good and with the pedigree of Herbie Hancock and his musicians playing on them, how can they not be?

In 1975 Henderson switched labels and released the album Sunburst on Blue Note, again using many of the musicians from the Herbie Hancock bands and also with George Duke playing a variety of keys and synths. The following year, he released the album Heritage also on Blue Note. That record has Patrice Rushen playing on it and the Headhunters rhythm section. Patrice Rushen would provide vocals and appear on his later Capitol albums also. These two Blue Note records are excellent also but have a slightly different sound to the earlier two on Capricorn. Things are getting funky with more accessible melodies. For these albums, the obvious comparison would be to records made by Donald Byrd during this period, a Blue Note label mate, as opposed to the Hancock/Davis influence of the first two.

From 1977 through 1979 Henderson cut three records for Capitol, starting with Comin’ Through, then Mahal and finally one called Runnin’ To Your Love. Capitol wasn’t exactly famous for their jazz roster and these records have more of a disco funk vibe than jazz. At the time, this wasn’t received particularly favorably by the critics, who thought them too mainstream. However, the listening public thought differently, particularly in the U.K., where the tracks Say You Will from Comin’ Through and Prance On from 1978’s Mahal were club hits. The sounds from these records would influence future hip-hop producers and acid-jazz musicians in the years to come.

A special mention also must be given to the man who produced, engineered and mixed most, if not all, of these great records and his name is Skip Drinkwater. In addition to the Eddie Henderson records, he worked on albums by Norman Connors and Alphonse Mouzon and discovered the group Catalyst, another jazz funk group. Interestingly, he also produced the all-black Heavy Metal group Sound Barrier.

It’s funny because many, many years ago I wouldn’t have like these records much. I thought proper jazz came from the 1950s and 60s and didn’t much care for jazz fusion or jazz funk. For those of you familiar with the comedy show The Mighty Boosh, you might remember Noel Fielding’s character Vince Noir hating jazz-funk in a very funny bit. I thought I was more like him then, but now seem to be more like Julian Barratt’s character Howard Moon. Yes sir, me sir, you are correct sir. Here at Sorry State, it feels like an episode from that show sometimes with me trying to turn Jeff on to jazz. LMAO.

Alright, we have an early deadline this week so that will have to do for now. Go check out Eddie Henderson, the Jazz Funk Surgeon and discover what a total bad ass he is and listen to his beautiful spacey, dark, spiritual, groovy and darn funky music. See you next time.

Cheers - Dom


Greetings,

Is TOTALITÄR a band the needs an introduction in 2021? We just got these babies in stock from Prank Records. If for some strange, fucked up reason you don’t own this LP you can grab a copy here, right now. Now, do you really want to read me talk about TOTALITÄR? Even if you don’t know me, you probably already know from my previous Staff Picks I believe TOTALITÄR is the greatest hardcore band ever. And if you know me, then you’ve probably heard me nerd out about them more than once or twice. So, it’s a given I would write about them then, yeah? I first heard TOTALITÄR via their split with DROPDEAD, 15 years after their first release. I was late to the party, but lucky for me every single release they did is excellent. (Unlike other bands who released records over decades like DISCHARGE.) TOTALITÄR blew my mind. The drumming was fast, still groovy as fuck and super locked-in. The riffs were catchy in the most memorable of ways, yet still played with this pummeling hardcore aggression. The vocals weren’t drenched in effects; he doesn’t need that shit. He sounds raw as fuck, just like the production of the recordings. I had no idea a band could sound this good. So naturally after I heard this EP I bought any of their records any chance I could get. After their split with DROPDEAD, the next one I picked up was their split with TRAGEDY. After picking up that split, I discovered their first EP cos those recordings are re-recordings of a few tracks from their 1986 demo. Sin Egen Motståndare was the first TOTALITÄR full-length I heard. I remember being a bit caught off guard by the full-on, rocked-the-fuck-out intro song, alongside the (at-first) seemingly dull production in comparison to the 2000s EPs I had previously heard. I feel like it is a whole-ass conversation to compare the CD and LP... and then of course there is adding the sound of the new Prank pressings into the mix. The reason I even bring this up is cos the dude who recorded and mixed (and mastered?) the session doesn’t like the way the CD sounds - you can see him commenting on a youtube video haha. Aright do you want to hear my breakdown of this album’s sound? I do not think it’s a matter of comparing the CD to the LP like the aforementioned was questioning. Like I said above, it starts off seemingly dull at first. When I say “at first,” I don’t mean the sound grew on me as the album progressed or my ears changed, but that the sound actually changed throughout the recording. It is subtle but noticeable. When the second to last song on the B side, Slagen Av Sanning, kicks in, I swear I can hear a different guitar tone. Maybe a microphone was nudged, a knob slightly shifted, or maybe it’s just a bit different sound from a different day of the recording. I think the guitar really starts to ‘shine’ a lot more in the recording about halfway through the tracks. The overall production has more of a “wall of sound” and I can hear more attack on the snare drum. I always notice how compressed the snare sounds when this LP begins with the intro track, but later I never notice it. But I’m not getting used to the sound… it’s cos the sound changes like I said haha. The recording maintains this excellent punishing tone throughout the B side of the record, aside from the song Slit Ner Hälsan. That song sounds like the tracks on the beginning of the A side. (I am not including the last two tracks of the album in this evaluation cos they are just bonus tracks that are from different sessions.) I bet you think I am fucking nuts... I dunno, I’ve listened to this album so many times. Skip around and the record and see if you can hear what I mean. Especially if you compare the beginning of the A side to the end of A side, the guitar is like fucking blasting your face off on the last two tracks, Slagen Av Sanning and Tvingad In I Livet. Alright that’s all for the nerdery today haha. Thanks for reading. Peace!


Okay, so I was trying to avoid this, but I’ve been having a rough bout of writer’s block when it comes to these SSR picks. My more recent acquisitions have been from thrift stores and flea markets, so there’s not much to dive into. But what I’ve REALLY been listening to lately? Embarrassing throwback emo music from my childhood. Not sure if anyone reading this was also in the sweet spot of being 11-12 years old in 2005, but I was the exact demographic the ‘emo phase’ hit. Right off the bat, I’ll admit like 90% of that era did not age well but I’ve gravitated towards it anyway. Maybe it’s because record labels are capitalizing on my generation’s nostalgia by repressing stuff on vinyl? I know I’ve shelled out money for the represses, haha! All that being said, besides the mighty My Chemical Romance, the main band that has stayed with me throughout the years is System of a Down. Judging by my old tweets and Facebook posts, I go through a bout every few years where I ONLY listen to System of a Down for a few weeks… and I feel that starting up again.

I sold my CD collection slowly throughout college and am kicking myself for it!! I’m slowly buying back what I remember having via Discogs and my favorite record stores that carry CDs. What started this hunt for CDs is my copy of Toxicity by SOAD. It’s one of the first CDs I remember owning and it is now at the point where every track skips… I can’t even find the jewel case or inserts anymore. I have a vivid memory of buying Toxicity on vinyl, where else but Sorry State, years ago. But there’s just something about screaming along to the lyrics as you drive that is making me dive back into CDs.

Anyway, I’ve been thinking about WHY System of a Down is one of my mainstays and I think it has to do a lot with the lyrics. They are odd and political; they are the reason I became political when I was too young to fully understand things like the industrial prison complex and war crimes. The sad thing is they are still relatable today—sort of like what I was talking about with my last staff pick—not enough has changed to make old political shit irrelevant. But more than that is how damn original System of a Down continues to be. No, they haven’t put out new music in well over 10 years, but I have yet to hear any band come close to the style SOAD has. I guess they are technically a nü metal band, but no other band in that genre quite sounds like SOAD. Their chaotic songwriting and absolutely epic (for lack of a better word) song structures put them light years ahead of anyone else in the game when the music was new. And, correct me if I’m wrong, but no one has come close to them since.


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