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SSR Picks: July 1 2021

I’ve written about podcasts several times in my staff picks, but I haven’t been listening to them as much lately. For whatever reason audiobooks have been doing it for me when I want to hear someone jibber jabbering at me while I’m driving. However, earlier this week I checked my podcast app and saw that one of my favorite shows, Garbage in My Heart, had devoted an entire episode to North Carolina music. I listened to that right away and enjoyed it. As I was listening, I kept thinking of things I wanted to sayand rather than send an email to Alex from GIMH I thought I’d make it my staff pick in case anyone else cares about this shit. I hope you’re reading this though, Alex, and hit me up if you want to continue the conversation!

Before I get into the episode, I should note that Garbage in My Heart is one of the best punk podcasts going. If you’re a regular Sorry State customer, you’ll almost certainly like the music Alex plays, particularly if your tastes include or lean toward garage and (Total) punk. I’ve learned about so much great music from this podcast and even when I’m familiar with most of the tracks it’s a great listen.

Also by way of preface, Alex mentions on the episode that this is the first of a series of episodes, each of which he’ll devote to music from a state where he has lived. Like myself, Alex grew up in eastern Virginia and moved to North Carolina later (I think he said his dad was in the Navy, and the military and shipbuilding were the major industries there in the 80s and 90s). Alex moved to NC as a teen and I didn’t come here until 2002, after I had finished college and spent a year wading into the capitalist hellscape. I’m hoping Alex devotes an episode to the Hampton Roads area of Virginia. It would be a challenge, but a cool one. Hit me up if you want any input on your playlist Alex!

Now onto the tracks. Alex starts the show with a mini-set of North Carolina music we released on Sorry State. He says some very nice things about me and Sorry State and I am, of course, flattered. Honestly, I never set out to document North Carolina music, but somehow I’ve done a lot of it. I don’t claim that Sorry State comprises any kind of comprehensive overview of North Carolina—just an idiosyncratic smattering of output from my circle of friends—but after spending 20 years putting out records from this place, I hope we at least warrant a mention alongside labels like Merge and No Core. It is an honor that someone with Alex’s breadth of knowledge about music sees us as that important.

After the Sorry State segment, Alex has a set of North Carolina garage punk. Appropriately, this set started off with a track by Charlotte-area band The Paragons called “Abba.” This is simply one of the greatest garage-punk songs of all time, up there with songs like “You’re Gonna Miss Me” by the 13th Floor Elevators. We carried a bootleg of it a while back and Dominic mentioned that there has been another edition recently. What a fucking track! The other tracks Alex plays are great too (you gotta give Link Wray a nod), but I want to mention one group Alex didn’t play: the Cykle. The Cykle was from Lumberton, North Carolina, and released one sought-after album. If you want an original copy, prepare to drop over a grand, I still harbor hope of encountering one in the wild. Oddly enough, if I remember correctly one person in the Cykle was Rich Ivey’s uncle (Rich Ivey of ISS, Whatever Brains, Das Drip, and many other projects, not to mention a staff pick a little further down in this very document). Rich even has a shredded original copy. Anyway, no disrespect to anyone from Lumberton, but if you’ve ever stopped there when you’re traveling down I-95, you’d be surprised any kind of interesting rock music had ever come from there, much less a total fucking monster of a garage LP that’s right up there with any freakbeat classic you want to throw at it.

As an aside, and with full acknowledgement that this is well outside Alex’s punk-oriented focus, I would be remiss not to mention that we’re barely scratching the surface of North Carolina’s rich musical heritage here. More famous musicians than you can count are from here, not least among them John Coltrane and Nina Simone. The amount and quality of music that has come from North Carolina’s large black population would take a lifetime of intense study to understand. The state also has rich traditions of Appalachian music and I’m certain there are entire populations with incredible histories I don’t even know about. We talk a lot about white men with electric guitars in this space, but there’s a whole wide world out there.

Next up, Alex gives us a smattering of 80s punk, heavy on the hardcore but also featuring the Th’Cigaretz (an early Raleigh punk band that featured Jerry Williams, who moved to New York and ran the 171A club / rehearsal space / studio, served as sound engineer at CBGB through much of the 80s, and recorded the first Bad Brains album and the Antidote EP among many other records) and Flat Duo Jets (whose singer/guitarist Dexter Romwebber pretty much provided Jack White with his entire sound and image). This set didn’t include my favorite 80s NC hardcore band, No Labels. Have I leaked word that Sorry State is working with No Labels on a reissue? We’ve been pecking away at this project for a few years, but it’ll be a while before it’s in your hands because we want to take our time and do a really good job, hopefully with a Radio Raheem-esque package featuring top-notch audio quality and a big booklet full of archival material.

Alex’s next set is devoted to what he calls the “Dark Ages” of the 2000s. This is when I moved to North Carolina, so I was familiar with most of these bands. When If first moved here I didn’t know anyone so I went to a lot of different kinds of shows trying to make connections and find music that excited me. I saw the Crimson Spectre many, many times and they were one of my favorites… energetic and catchy, like a more hardcore version of Kid Dynamite or something like that. There was another cool, albeit short-lived, band I liked called Uwharria. Pretty sure I saw Dead Things a few times; I certainly had their CD. By the time I moved here I was uninterested in metalcore so I’ve never listened to Undying, but the people who took part in NC’s fertile metalcore scene repped them hard. The track Alex played seemed to have a heavy At the Gates influence and reminded me of Darkest Hour, a band I loved in the late 90s.

Alex mentions that some of the music he played in this set came from the Southern Punk Archive. Alex expresses some confusion about what the Southern Punk Archive is. To my knowledge, it’s a project affiliated with the library of the University of Mississippi and it is helmed by filmmaker John Rash (check out his documentary on the band Negro Terror), who (not coincidentally) played bass for Crimson Spectre. Right now the Southern Punk Archive has an Instagram account featuring tons of punk ephemera and a Bandcamp site several hard to find releases (though I’m not sure why the Action Patrol discography is there… I fucking love Action Patrol but unless I’m mistaken they were from Richmond, Virginia). The Southern Punk Archive implies a wide geographic and temporal scope, but as of right now there’s a heavy emphasis the central NC scene of the 90s and 00s that John Rash was a big part of.

I am aware of, but didn’t really take part in, a bunch of other punk-related scenes in North Carolina. Throughout the 90s there was a club in Garner, North Carolina (just south of Raleigh) called the Caboose that hosted a lot of shows but seems to have been a sort of spiritual home for the Confederacy of Scum-type bands. North Carolina had a healthy hardcore scene in the 90s with bands like Gnosis and Inept whose music took cues from the trends of the time. Many people who had been involved with the 80s NC punk scene also kept playing music and many of them still do. Some of that music connects with the Merge Records / indie scene (for instance, Kevin Collins from Subculture and Days of was in Erectus Monotone, who released several cool records on Merge), while another branch whose hangout was the Raleigh club King’s took more inspiration from 60s and 70s garage and hard rock. There was also a big screamo scene in NC in the 00s, with Raleigh’s Black Castle being a key band. Rabbit holes about for the curious.

I’ll stop here, noting there are many people who know way more about this shit than I do. I’m pretty sure Rich Ivey is an NC music deep head (despite, like Alex and I, being a transplant from Virginia!) and could give you way more detail than I have here. But yeah, support your scene! Today’s hangs are tomorrow’s history.

Hey there Sorry State gang. As we approach July 4th, allow me to wish a happy Independence Day to all of our American readers. Have a great weekend regardless of your nationality. As an Englishman living in America, the significance of the holiday is not lost. Not that I “celebrate” the 4th but my birthday is two days later so sometimes it can be a festive couple of days.

This particular week I’m personally still caught up in all the excitement and drama of the Euros and getting to finally see England beat Germany in a competitive match. The first win in my lifetime. The last time was back in 1966 when we won the World Cup, two years before I joined the world. I tend not to get too crazy over international football; club footie is where it’s at and my allegiance will always be to Liverpool FC first and foremost. That being said, watching the world’s top players compete against each other in tournaments like the Euros, Copa America and the World Cup is a treat and never fails to entertain and excite. This last week saw some amazing games and results and I’m sure there will be more to come. I’ll be cheering the team on this weekend when the quarter final matches take place. My club has several players representing their countries in both the Euros and Copa America and it’s great to see them in action and I wish them success. Just don’t get injured.

Last week I gave a nod to the debut album from The Streets, an album that couldn’t be more British unless the vinyl was made from Marmite and so for this week, I am again going to pull from my UK shelves, although this time going back to the swinging sixties and the halcyon days of that historic win against Germany and England’s first and only World Cup trophy. On the day of the recent victory this week I had a CD playing in the car that was a collection of releases that came out on the independent UK label Saga. They specialized in licensing and releasing mostly classical music and were one of the first indies to offer budget priced releases and to undercut the monopoly that the major labels had on the market. At some point in the mid-sixties, they began cashing in on the pop market and commissioned a series of pop-soul and rock records. Some of the more interesting titles have gone on to be collectors’ items and can be pretty hard to score as originals.

The standout release for most is my choice today: The Five Day Week Straw People.

Recorded in late 1967 and released in 1968, this was a one-off project written by the songwriting team of Guy Mascolo and David Montague and was meant to be a reflection of the life of a typical working-class person, with the album representing a weekend snapshot. Each song details a moment in that person’s Friday night to Monday morning. A loose concept type of affair. For musicians a trio was put together consisting of John DuCann on guitar and vocals, Jack Collins on drums and Mick Hawksworth on bass. The Saga budget wasn’t going to allow expensive studio time and so the album was recorded in a London schoolroom pretty much in one session with very little overdubbing and multi-takes. By all account’s drummer Collins hadn’t even heard any of the songs before he turned up for the session.

As is often the case with these types of things, out of meager circumstances and conditions still great things are achieved. The resulting record is a terrific slice of sixties British psychedelia. There are strong pop and mod leanings but also some toughness too. Several tracks have a heavier guitar approach and are more like the sound of Cream and other heavy rock acts that were starting to take over the scene. The guitar playing is ace throughout and no surprise as John DuCann was no slouch. He was fresh out of mod freakbeat Gods The Attack and after this helped form Andromeda with his Straw People band mates and then more famously played guitar in Atomic Rooster. Bassist Hawksworth in addition to the aforementioned Andromeda also played in underground heavy rock legends Fuzzy Duck. As for drummer Collins, he also played on another cool Saga album from The Magic Mixture. That record is quite collectable too as it has some good psych tunes on it, sounding sort of like the stuff The Pretty Things were doing as The Electric Banana. Collins, whose real name was McCulloch, came from Glasgow and was the brother of Wee Jackie McCulloch the guitarist who at fourteen was shredding like Jimmy Page for freakbeat legends One In A Million.

The cover for the Straw People album has a very quintessential sixties psychedelic artwork and suits the music therein. For me, side one is the stronger side, beginning with the great title track and following up with two of the better songs, I’m Going Out Tonight and Gold Digger. John DuCann’s guitar work is excellent here and you can clearly hear the direction he was heading in with some of the heavy leads he throws down. Because the record was recorded in a classroom, it has a lot of echo and reverb but that demo like quality actually adds to the charm, I think. The songs are quite ambitious and perhaps given more time and a proper studio etc. they could have been made to sound even more epic, but everyone involved managed to do a great job. In the spirit of the great Joe Meek who made space sounds in his front room years before, the results far exceed their humble origins.

I definitely recommend you give this one a listen and to check out some of the other bands I mentioned if you are not familiar with them. The Attack singles are essential, as is the One In A Million double-sider. We had a reissue of the Fuzzy Duck album here at Sorry State a while back. If I had more time and space, I would talk more about the Magic Mixture album too, but you can do some research on your own time for that one. It’s worth exploring.

Okay, time to go to press, so I will close out here. Thanks as ever for reading and I hope you enjoy my choice for this week. Here are links to my two favorite cuts for you to check out:

Pop a sugar cube and enjoy. Until next time, cheers - Dom

Hello again,

Thanks for reading. I don’t have much time right now but I wanted to mention this 12” from Infra that come out recently. This 12" is what was originally two separate cassettes released in 2019 and 2020. The A side has a much more slick sound. I lean towards the B side cos it sounds much more gnarly. This band is from Bogotá, playing UK82 style HC. It’s fairly “melodic” but keeps up the pace, sometimes it reminds me a bit of Puke (Sweden), one of my all-time favorites. Im droppin a link at the bottom - if you dig it, be sure to grab a copy from our webstore! We actually managed to stock the limited color versions!! Alright, thanks again to everyone for supporting Sorry State. ‘Til next time...

David Bowie Narrates Peter and the Wolf

I’m running super behind. I have a half written SSR pick about the gang of radio 7” copies I have but I haven’t been able to complete it. Next week! For now, I’m keeping it short and sweet and sharing one of my recent favorite finds at work. I’m realizing a lot of weird trends in my buying habits now that I do nothing but browse Discogs, work at Sorry State, and listen to my embarrassingly large section of unplayed records.

I’ve talked to a couple friends and I’m apparently the only one who has very vivid memories of learning about classical music through Peter and the Wolf when I was in elementary school. Through collecting Scholastics Records releases, read along books, and just generally things made for children, I’ve found a ton of different pressings of this piece. I love the variations of cover art and narration but this one I found a few weeks ago takes the CAKE.

I don’t know a ton about David Bowie, but I consider myself pretty familiar with his work and I had no idea he narrated Peter and the Wolf in 1978! I was doing my usual dig for a daily soundtrack and stopped on David Bowie’s name because it just felt like a David Bowie kinda day. I didn’t read the cover or our price tag until I was back behind the counter and I immediately stopped whatever else I was listening to. AND THIS SHIT IS ON GREEN VINYL! Fuckin’ sold. As I listened to this a few times, I can safely say this is my favorite rendition of Peter and the Wolf I’ve heard so far! Some of the other versions I’ve heard are way too childish or way too stuffy. This fits snuggly in the middle of the two; maybe not the most interesting thing to elementary school aged me, but 27-year-old me is all about this shit. Best discovery ever... well, this month at least.

I’ve dropped the ball on scooping OG copies of Floridian synth-punk architects FUTURISK’s eps too many times to count, so this new triple 7”+flexi box from the ever-reliable Minimal Wave Records is a very welcome addition to my summer jam stack. For the uninitiated, Futurisk was a surprisingly early, surprisingly Southern, synth trio from the lowest depths of the Sunshine State. Led by British ex-pat Jeremy Kolosine, the group zealously cobbled together influence from Ultravoxx and John Foxx, Roxy Music, The Normal, early Human League and all that other fancyboy UK stuff while their 20-year-old FL peers were jammin’ dumbdumb rock like a buncha dumb jocks.

What made Futurisk stand out from typically colder UK acts, though, was its reliance on a real life, sticks’n’skins DRUMMER. It’s kind of like what Gary Numan was doing with Tubeway Army, but closer still to the American West Coast’s early electro-art-punk (Screamers, Units, Nervous Gender). Basically, it’s DIY AF.

And while it’s surely affected and brash, it’s also earnest as hell. Kolosine & Co. sound adept—albeit sufficiently minimal—on their studio-recorded debut 7”, 1980’s “Army Now,” but by the time Futurisk self-tracks its new-wavier “Player Piano” EP in 1982, its naivety can’t be ignored. THANK JAH FOR THAT. Precision is for the birds, and the birds are fucking stupid.

“Player Piano” is simultaneously one of the best American synth records, one of the best American DIY (punkish) records and one of the best outsider basement wavers from any goddamned country. If you already have the extended “Player Piano” 12” that Minimal Wave dropped in 2010, this boxset is 100% musically redundant, but if you appreciate playing dress-up with solid reproductions of expensive old rares, this here’s your shit. The box, booklet and previously released outtakes are pretty cool, too.

This new fan-made hardcover book about The Fall, Excavate!, is ALSO pretty dang cool. It’s comprised of a bunch of short, pedantic essays about The Fall and Mark E. Smith, and it’s exactly as pretentious as it should be. Included also are smatterings of hen’s teeth ephemera (fliers, lyrics, letters, oh my!) and a nifty visual discography of all the band’s LPs. If you happen to have a coffee table, meet your new coaster. This thing rules.

Also, also, also my buddy and I were record shopping the other day (at Sorry State, of course!), and he asked if I’d heard the above-pictured LP by Genocide. I said I had not. He said I needed to buy it. I did. It’s a collection of pre-Repulsion demo tapes, and IT IS RIPPING AS FUCK. It was a $29 bootleg culled from the used racks, and it’s probably difficult to find a copy at this juncture since it’s like 10 years old, so I guess my third staff pick would be some advice: LISTEN TO YOUR FRIENDS. They just may turn you on to some radical grindy 80s death metal you’ve never heard before. Peace!

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