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

SSR Picks: October 21 2021

Death Side: Unreleased Tracks & Video Archives 7” / DVD (Break The Records, 2021)

You may have heard about the new release from Japanese legends Death Side on Break The Records. Sorry State got a very small handful of copies, and after everyone who works here got to take one for themselves, there were only a few left for the website. As expected, they sold out within minutes. I wish we could have gotten enough copies for everyone who wanted one, but it just wasn’t possible. I try to avoid hyping hard-to-get releases in the newsletter, but I enjoyed this release so much that I wanted to write about it for my staff pick.

The major attraction when I heard about this record was the 7” containing four unreleased tracks Death Side recorded during the sessions for the Game of Death compilation LP in 1989. While I missed out on the very limited official vinyl pressing of Death Side’s split with Chaos UK that Break The Records released in 2016, my collection of Death Side vinyl is otherwise complete (even including compilations!) and I wanted to keep it that way.

While I anticipated this release for the 7” EP, it’s probably the least compelling element of the package. Death Side had a habit of recording extra songs at their recording sessions, and members would take turns adding vocal tracks to these extra songs. That is what this EP compiles, with one song each sang by Death Side’s four members at the time of this recording. Main vocalist Ishiya sings the first track, with drummer Muka-Chin, bassist You, and guitarist Chelsea providing vocals for the subsequent tracks. Chelsea gets an assist from Tokurow of Bastard in his track, which is pretty cool to hear.

The tracks on the 7” are, surprisingly, really good. My expectations were low given these are outtakes from a recording session for a compilation, but fuck… Death Side was so good and so prolific they left tons of gold on the cutting room floor. While the recording quality is rough (more gritty than lo-fi), the songs have so much going on… it’s amazing how much music flowed through Chelsea. There are great riffs, several of Chelsea’s trademark melodic leads, and some unexpected moments like the creepy-sounding, melodic chorus to “Sunshine Blind.” I won’t overstate my case by insisting this material is essential or that it holds a candle to any of the original-era Death Side releases, but these tracks are cool and worth hearing if you are a fan.

The physical package includes liner notes by Zigyaku from Gudon, Bastard, and Judgement, who was a close confidant of the band when they recorded these tracks and present for the session. He describes being locked in the studio all night, the band completing these half-finished tracks by writing lyrics and vocals on the spot. Death Side always seemed like superheroes to me, but Zigyaku’s liner notes humanize them and provide much-needed insight as to how the band worked.

Now onto the DVD, which is my favorite part of the package. I hadn’t played a DVD in years, so I had to unpack my ancient Xbox, which was covered in dust, still sitting in a moving box I hadn’t opened since moving into my current house two and a half years ago. After finding all the cables and replacing the batteries in the remote, I was relieved when the DVD’s menu popped up on my screen.

Some of the material on the DVD I had seen before. The 1989 footage has circulated online for years, and contributed to Death Side’s mystique as I was learning about them in the early 2000s. This footage is pro-shot in a live house with multiple camera angles and good sound, and while the venue seems small, the stage lighting and the band’s incredible style give them a larger-than-life appearance. Ishiya entering the stage with his giant, 3-foot mohawk is one of the most magical moments of punk ever captured on video. I remember downloading low-res clips of this footage from Soulseek and torrent sites twenty years ago, and it’s just as captivating to me now. I also remember the first time I saw Forward in the early 00s, thinking to myself “holy shit, two of these guys were in Death Side, and that’s the one with the giant mohawk!” It is the stuff of legends, and if seeing this doesn’t hook you on Japanese hardcore, then nothing will.

My favorite part of the DVD, though, are the tracks from a 1993 gig that I’d never seen before. The footage from live house gigs is of a piece with other video footage of legendary Japanese bands from the 80s and 90s, much of which was released commercially on VHS tapes. While you can see the crowd is going off, the atmosphere seems sinister and charged; you can even see fights break out as the band plays. However, the 1993 footage is from a different sort of gig. The first song from this gig on the DVD, “Stick & Hole,” begins, and the crowd is just going the fuck OFF. There are a ton of people on the stage (it reminds me of a packed 90s / 00s gig at St Stephen’s in DC or the First Unitarian Church in Philly), and a bunch of freaks wearing nothing but speedos dance around, lighting fireworks. Ishiya looks punk as hell with his arm set in a cast, but Chelsea has transitioned toward his Paintbox-era fashion with his loud Hawaiian-style shirt and his hair in a stringy, bleached-out surfer style like something out of Lords of Dogtown. One camera angle focuses on him and he’s just shredding the living fuck out of his guitar. It looks like there are a few hundred people at the gig and everyone is dancing, thrashing around, and crowding around the microphones during the gigantic choruses. While the recording isn’t professional, the DVD cuts between multiple camera angles, which keeps the energy level from stagnating. This gig seems so fun, and I gobbled up this footage with saucer-wide eyes and a giant smile plastered across my face.

The DVD cuts between several different gigs, and between the songs, there are interview segments with Ishiya, You, and Muka-Chin. Like Zigyaku’s liner notes, these interview segments humanize this larger-than-life band as they reminisce about touring, having no money, and how close their friendship was during the band’s original era. I’m so pleased they provided English subtitles for the interview, and my buddy Jesse Conway’s translations do so much to bring into focus what was before only discernible through the (interestingly) cracked prism of awkward translations. I’ve always wondered what Japanese hardcore bands think of their American fans, and in the interview, the members talk about how they dreamed of touring overseas during the band’s original era ,and how much it meant to them for the reformed version of the band to get such an incredible response at their gigs outside Japan. Those words, along with the care they took to make this release accessible for western audiences, make me feel like some of the love we westerners have for Japanese hardcore is getting through to them.

The DVD’s climax is an explosive version of “The Will Never Die” at that 1993 gig. Everyone is singing along, the band and audience are losing their shit, and the energy, which video often doesn’t capture, is electric. I can barely imagine what it must have been like to be there in person, but I feel so lucky to watch it now.

Once again, I’m sorry to tease everyone by writing about a release that will be very difficult for you to acquire. There has long been an annoying snootiness and exclusivity among the people who follow Japanese punk in the west, with many fans protective about information and skeptical of people who are comparatively new to this stuff. I hope it’s clear I’m not trying to cool guy anyone or brag. I just love this band and this music, and this release prompted so many thoughts that I felt compelled to share. If you can find a copy for yourself, then cool (it’ll be difficult, but not impossible), but if not, try your best to make something just as awesome happen right now in your part of the world.

What’s up Sorry Staters?

Hope yall are all enjoying the spooky season! I’ve been trying to cram in watching as many horror movies as possible before Halloween. Inevitably, that means hearing some cheesy heavy metal in some of these 80s flicks. Pretty appropriate for what I’ve written below:

I had an idea for a staff pick a while back that I’m only now taking the time to fully wrap my head around. This idea was resparked in my brain when I found out that Daniel is currently working his way through listening to the entire Black Sabbath discography. When he told me this, I thought “Damn, that’s a cool idea.” But still, a dubious task to say the least when you consider the many changes Sabbath went through over their multiple-decade career. The other day, Daniel and I were both working at Sorry State’s warehouse location and he had just reached the Dio era of his listening journey. As we both experienced the lesser known tracks from Mob Rules, it reminded me of an idea I had to write for our newsletter a long time ago, but never got around to. This idea involved the 2 most iconic singers from Sabbath, and now I think it’s time I finally time I got to flesh this thing out. I’m not going to revisit the age-old debate of “who was better in Sabbath, Ozzy or Dio?” Instead, most of you rockers know that both Ozzy and Dio had very successful careers going solo post-Sabbath. Bear with me…

Many months ago now, I remember we had a copy of Ozzy Osbourne’s The Ultimate Sin sitting in the used bins here at the store. Between both Rachel and I specifically, I remember this record getting a lot of play while either of us would be working the counter at the store. An underrated Ozzy record, I would say. But around that same time, we also had a copy of Sacred Heart by Dio. Each of these solo records by the former Sabbath frontmen could be described as midpoints in each singer’s solo career. Sacred Heart was released in late summer of 1985 and The Ultimate Sin was released in early 1986. So really, the albums were released only about 4 months or so apart.

Now, each record had a major single with a music video: Ozzy had “A Shot In The Dark” and Dio had “Rock ‘N’ Roll Children.” I’m not sure for anyone reading this how long it has been since you’ve heard either of these songs, but around the time I was revisiting these records I couldn’t help but notice that they are EERILY similar. Even when you look at the picture sleeves for each single, both have orange backgrounds and feature an image of a dragon! Now “A Shot in the Dark” has Ozzy’s head anthropomorphized onto the dragon, but still! Haha. But there’s so much more going on here.

I’m not sure if each of the former Sabbath singers brought in a producer (maybe the same producer??) on these records to help with their slumps in the middle of their careers, but you do have to consider the time period. The landscape of heavy metal was changing a lot in the mid-80s, with bands like Dokken hitting the big time. The genre influence I hear really creeping its way into both of these tunes is what I’ve heard a lot of people refer to as “Night Metal.” Maybe some you will know what I mean by that haha. With hair metal being the dominant force at the time, both Ozzy and Dio have a bit more of a glittery, glammy soft edge on these songs. Both songs are midpaced at a similar tempo, each opening with a keyboard-laden, melancholic atmosphere that gives off a hint of mystery. Then finally, we have to talk about these riffs. When each of these songs break into their signature guitar riff, both chugging in the key of A or maybe A flat, you realize that for all intents and purposes – you’re listening to the same song. The opening lyrics and the phrasing is so similar as well, with Dio’s opening line “It was starting to rain on the night that they first decided.” and Ozzy singing “Out on the street, I’m stalking the night.” Play them back to back, it’s almost dead on. Even when you look at the music videos there are similarities! Both videos follow teenagers on their night out with a feeling of distress looming over them. Both videos incorporate supernatural elements and whisps of mystical happenings. “Rock ‘N’ Roll Children” opens with a minute-long cut scene and definitely has more of a plot to the music video than Ozzy’s tune. Still, it’s strange how alike they are in terms of vibe, the overarching theme being feeling lost, but still having each other. These middle-aged Sabbath singers had to connect with the youth, man!

I wish I could sit here and write a super detailed essay about how crazy alike these songs are, but at some point, I need to go price some records for the store. I gotta say though, if I had to pick my preference for one of these numbers based purely on execution, I think “Rock ‘N’ Roll Children” takes the cake. I would say mainly because I like the video. It does kind of remind of a like PG-version of Nightmare Elm Street (See? It all comes back to Dokken). Both are cheesy as hell, but if Dio’s music video is like an expensive Gruyere, then Ozzy’s is probably more like Cheese Whiz.

That’s all I’ve got this week. As always, thanks for reading and nerding out with me.

‘Til next week,

-Jef Lep

Hey there Sorry State Gang. I hope you all have had a good week and are doing well? The world keeps spinning, and another week is in the books. Between navigating the endless pain and stress of life (slight joke) I have had my mood lifted by good football matches, great music, and good reads. The Mighty Reds secured a win in Madrid, Spain this week against Atletico in what was quite a game, with Mo Salah setting another club record of scoring in nine consecutive matches. Music wise, we are flooded as per usual with great records new and old at the store. I’ve been listening to my usual fix of Jazz, Soul and oldies at home and trying my best to do something that I rarely do these days and that is read a book. So, for my pick this week, I would like to tell you about a new one I’ve been flicking through that a lot of you might well be interested in.

The Best Of Jamming! Edited by Tony Fletcher

Jamming! was a British fanzine that existed between 1977 and 1986 with a thirty-six-issue run. It began as a school publication launched by a teenage Tony Fletcher in London, with the first issue being a six-page affair published in December 1977 and costing a whopping ten pence, eventually evolving into a nationally distributed monthly. Packed full of great reviews, interviews, and features on sport, politics, poetry, and whatever else was clever at the time, it became an essential read. Back in the day before the internet you had to get your knowledge from these types of publications, and I did my best to read as many independent zines as possible in addition to all the numerous weekly and monthly music papers and magazines. It took a bit of effort and after years of buying them, I literally had thousands. For many years whilst traveling at sea, I had them stored in my parent’s attic, but my Dad got worried about the weight and one day took them all to the dump. Ha. So many great issues of old NME, Melody Maker, Sounds etc. returned to the earth.

Tony Fletcher, originally from Yorkshire, now resides in upstate New York and has had quite a few great books published over the years. He has written biographies/books on Keith Moon, R.E.M. The Clash, Echo And The Bunnymen, The Smiths, Wilson Pickett, and Eddie Floyd in addition to a couple of novels. Jamming! his latest, is a coffee table sized book that collects the highlights from each issue of the zine. With a foreword by Billy Bragg and insightful comments and reflections by Tony on each issue, it is a fun and fascinating read. Like a lot of zines started by young enthusiastic music lovers, it managed to get closer to the artists it covered than the mainstream press did. Jamming! had a lot of exclusive interviews during its run and many are included in the book. In addition, there are personal letters from the likes of Paul Weller and Mark E. Smith and tons of great period photos and other memorabilia.

Later issues of Jamming! appeared in the US but chances are for most of us this will be the first time we are reading these pieces. Over here Stateside there were, of course, plenty of homegrown zines and mags to get your hands on. Jamming! kind of reminds me of the great Bomp! magazine that the late Greg Shaw was putting out around the same time. That terrific publication covered similar territory and there is also a nice compendium of issues that came out a few years ago that I would highly recommend you get your hands on.

This collection of Jamming! is officially out on November 25th and is published by Omnibus Press. If you click the link to Tony’s page on the net, you’ll find links to all the places that are carrying it. I was lucky to get an early look courtesy of my Face Radio partner Matt, who was given an advance copy from Tony himself when our show Worldy broadcasted a special Jamming! show from the Brooklyn studio last month. I couldn’t fly up and do the show with Matt and Tony, but they had a great time and played so many great tunes that captured the spirit of the zine and the music it covered. You can click here to listen to that show. It really is a fun listen and great to hear from Tony himself.

Thanks for reading and your time. Have a fab week and I’ll see you next time.

Cheers – Dom.

Hello and thank you for reading,

This pic is completely unrelated to everything, but it is a wholesome pic so I am sharing it. I have been chatting with one of the guitarists from MORNINGTON CRESCENT, and 3/4 of SCARECROW just got an original copy of their killer EP! The other 1/4 of SCARECROW took the pic, hehe. I keep forgetting my birthday is this month. As I get older, I care less and less about birthdays. I don’t stress much about getting gifts for friends, and I really don’t like it when people spend money on me. Except I love to make mixtapes, but lately I find myself a bit too busy to enjoy this... of course, the real exception to everything I’ve just said is Jeff, haha! We always get each other a cool ass record for each other’s birthday. He has given me so much cool shit, man. I am lucky. I cannot wait to see what he’s got locked in for me this time around. This year I gave him my copy of ENGLISH DOGS To The Ends of the Earth 12”. I tried to buy him his own copy so I wouldn’t have to give him my dead mint condition copy, but the copy I got for him was so warped it would not play. The seller would only offer a refund on the 12" while I would have to eat the shipping both ways. So I eat shipping twice plus tax cos someone can’t grade a record??? Good thing you sent me P.O. Box as the return address, asshole. Anyway, the whole reason I am even mentioning this is cos one birthday tradition that never seems to fail is WHIPPITS, ahhhhhhhhh! I literally just realized I need to go buy a box today from the head shop, and now I am very excited!! Yeah I am juvenile, I don’t care.

Anyway, I am writing about a cool re-issue today, HYVINKÄÄ EP. I actually did not even know this EP existed until I heard about the re-issue. This EP is named after the city where all the bands were from. Before receiving the EP, I only knew one of the names, PAINAJAINEN. They are the only band from this comp that actually has a proper record. I think it is safe to say these bands are pretty obscure. Although when I got my copy and played it I instantly recognized the first PURKAUS track from the Killed By Finnish Hardcore 12" compilation. I had a lot of anticipation for the PAINAJAINEN tracks but compared to their EP it was not what I expected! I wondered if it was even the same band cos their EP is so fucking good, haha. I think the PURKAUS tracks might be my favorite if I had to choose. They know how to rip. But, the SOTAKULTTUURI tracks really get me going. They know how to seriously fucking ROCK! Aside from Finnish hardcore being known for its absolutely nasty (and sometimes sloppy) song-writing, I feel like Finland was the best at making songs groovy as fuck. The early bands knew how to throw a little cheese on some Discharge shit, but they make it stylish instead of corny. I really like contemporary band KOHTI TUHOA for this reason. There’s another upcoming release from Finland I cannot wait for either, YLEISET SYYT. We will be getting a lot of copies of this once it’s released. You know, I did not mention that the HYVINKÄÄ EP is not available from Sorry State yet. We have copies on the way with another re-issue from HöhNIE Records, the LASTA EP. So keep an eye out!

I’m a bit behind on getting this writing done, so I will have to wrap it up. The LASTA EP is another “obscure” record, though the bands on there are really not that obscure. It seems that some of the tracks appear elsewhere, but certainly not all. There’s 10 bands on this record! Aside from PURKAUS having an appearance here as well, this compilation features more popular bands like RIISTETYT, TERVEET KÄDET, BASTARDS, and KANSAN UUTISET! Both these 7"s coming from HöhNIE Records are very cool re-issues. Check ‘em out! If was you, I would surely grab both. Oh yes, I also forgot to mention we are getting the color vinyl versions for both releases! kk thanks for reading, peace!

I’ve come to really love Thursdays; putting together the newsletter has become one of my favorite parts of working at Sorry State! I let the music Daniel and my coworkers write about dictate my playlist and it’s honestly such a fucking joy to listen to everything each week. If you’ve gotten this far in the newsletter, I don’t need to tell you how cool this shit is, haha!

I’ve been spending a lot of time combing through my collection and updating my Discogs collection with the odds and ends I missed in the constant shuffle of new things. It made me realize I’ve picked up quite a few things on my Thursday shifts because of the newsletter, so I thought I’d share a few from the 7” box I’m currently reorganizing.

Distant Fear: A Reminder of Death 7”

I remember when we got this in and I was admiring the hand printed packaging. As someone who studied printmaking in college, I’m such a sucker for hand printed packaging on records. What really sold me on this, though, was Daniel’s description when this hit the Featured Release section way back when. For being a 7”, this record is still atmospheric and moody; it really feels longer than it is. We still have a few copies left because things from New Zealand tend to be a bit pricier, but I assure you this is worth every penny!

Electric Chair: Social Capital 7”

I don’t have to say much about this. We’ve been blowing through copies of this release since it came out, and for good reason. I’m still kicking myself for not grabbing Performative Justice when we had it in the store for 0.2 seconds before it sold out...don’t be like me, go grab Social Capital now why we still have it!!!

Execution: Silently it Grows 7”

Another record I fell victim to because of packaging and then the subsequent Featured Release write up. It’s an assault on the ears in the best way. Another import, so we luckily still have a few copies you can snag on the web store!

Horrendous 3D – The Gov. And Corps. Are Using Psycho-Electronic Weaponry To Manipulate You And Me… 7”

I think this might be my favorite thing I’ve picked up from the newsletter. I remember putting this on during a shift, not thinking too much about it, and watching the faces change on the customers in the store. I knew I needed it. It’s a dirty, nasty, hardcore jumbled mess that comes together perfectly for this record.

Nekra: Royal Disruptor 7”

I’m finding out I’m late to the game with some bands, but I’m glad to have found them either way. My Discogs want list generally increases every Thursday when I discover a new band. I’m sure it’s only a matter of time before I buy a cassette player and go down that hole. Finding Nekra definitely made me do a few eBay searches for cassette players so I could justify buying their demo from 2017. I’m so glad I have this release, though!

Leave a comment