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

SSR Picks: September 23 2021

This week I’m going to write about a couple of things rather than focusing on just one, ripping off the format that Rich uses for his picks. Hopefully Rich is back soon with another staff pick. I haven’t caught up with him in a few weeks, but I know he’s been super busy. I think right now he’s on the road traveling to Gonerfest. I’m sure our loyal newsletter listeners can agree that sounds like an interesting thing to write about HINT HINT RICH.

Ronan Fitzsimmons: The Toy Dolls: From Fulwell to Fukuoka book

The Toy Dolls have been on my mind lately. Of my few post-lockdown trips out of town, two of them have been to Philadelphia, and on both trips I stayed with my friends Jim and Amy, both of whom are big Toy Dolls fans. Shout out to Jim and Amy! I’m pretty sure that on both trips I told the story of when I got to see the Toy Dolls live. I can’t remember the year, but it was in Richmond in the late 90s, and they were fantastic. I didn’t know much about the Toy Dolls other than that they were an old UK punk band, but that was enough to get me to the show. Maybe it’s because I had no expectations, but the Toy Dolls blew me away that night, and their set lives in my memory as one of the best punk gigs I ever saw.

About a month ago, Scarecrow was in Richmond for a gig and, as usual, we stopped by Vinyl Conflict to check out their wares. I spotted this book on the shelf and grabbed it immediately. I have quite a few books like this that were printed and distributed primarily in the UK and it was a giant, expensive pain in the ass to get them, so even if this book sucked, I was willing to take the risk at only twelve bucks. Thankfully, though, it’s a great read.

From Fulwell to Fukuoka is based mostly on a single long interview with Olga, the Toy Dolls’ founder and mastermind. Over the course of the interview, the author and Olga discuss the entire history of the Toy Dolls and they go deep, even if (as the author notes) the rounds of pints take their toll after a while. The author is a die-hard Toy Dolls fan who grew up in the Northeast of England, just like Olga and most of the band members. He’s knowledgeable and passionate about the band, and Olga’s answers to his questions are rich with detail, if self-deprecating (he dismisses about 90% of the Toy Dolls’ output as “crap”). Olga’s recollections are rounded out with details culled from other sources, and the author spends a lot of time explaining the references in the band’s lyrics. There is some summary of Coronation Street plots, but the book remains readable throughout, thanks to the author’s combination of wit, humor, and passion for the Toy Dolls’ music. There’s also a surprisingly touching section at the end where fans share their stories of how they discovered the Toy Dolls and what the band means to them. From Fulwell to Fukuoka reminds me of Parks and Recreation, hilarious and unexpectedly heartwarming at the same time.

The Fall: Live in London 1980 12”

Loyal newsletter readers might remember several months back when I wrote at length about the recent Fall live album on Castle Face Records, throwing around the idea of a series of staff picks about live albums by the Fall. I’ve listened to Live in London 1980 five or six times since I had that idea, but even with all that attention I haven’t come up with an “angle” that could support an entire staff pick. I think said everything I have to say about Fall live albums in general in that piece, so I’ll just fill you in on the details on this record.

Live in London originally came out as a cassette on the Chaos Tapes label in 1982. The Fall was an odd fit for Chaos Tapes, whose other releases were by bands like Discharge, Chron Gen, and G.B.H., but the release sold out its edition of 4,000 copies, making it to #7 in the independent charts. The recording is magical (it became known among fans as “The Legendary Chaos Tape”), capturing one night of a two-night stand where the Fall showcased material from the recently released Grotesque and numerous songs from Slates and Hex Enduction Hour, neither of which they had recorded yet. Some of the newer songs are rough around the edges, but you don’t want a bootleg to sound exactly like the studio versions, do you? According to Mark E. Smith, the label pressed up the recording from the wrong gig and the other night was the better performance, but this may be a bit of attempted myth-making. While hardly exceptional, the sound quality is solid and the band’s intense performance shines through the grit. Mark E. Smith famously hated London, and one gets the sense he channels some of that ire into this performance.

The Fall: The Wonderful and Frightening World of the Fall 12” (1984)

Spending so much time listening to Live in London 1980 gave me a hankering for some Brix-era Fall, so I pulled out this gem. Coming just before the landmark This Nation’s Saving Grace album, Wonderful and Frightening captures a very cool moment in the band’s history. While Perverted by Language always sounded tentative to me, like they were still figuring out how to integrate Brix into the band (though the album has its proponents… I know it’s Dave from Cochonne’s favorite Fall record), and This Nation’s Saving Grace is so perfectly synthesized and realized, Wonderful and Frightening splits the difference. It’s not so much that individual tracks seem to look forward or backward; rather, songs like “2x4,” “Lay of the Land,” and “Slang King” have something of both the art rock / pop sensibility Brix brought to the band and the amphetamine jitter of the Grotesque / Slates / Hex era. It’s also, despite its title, a ridiculously fun record. Paired with a too-late-in-the-evening cup of coffee, it prompted me to clean my entire house, a process that stretched well past midnight.

Hey there Sorry State Gang. I hope all is well with you. We mark another week off the calendar and say goodbye to summer and hello to autumn. How time flies. I’m hoping that we’ll still have some nice fall weather down here in Raleigh so that I can get my Exotica night in. We had to cancel last week due to the threat of rain and are going to try again for this week. Damn pandemic preventing responsible social gatherings.

As I didn’t get to play the records I had pulled for the evening on the night, I’ve decided to feature one of them for a special mention here. I hope you don’t mind. It’s called Africa Speaks, America Answers by Guy Warren with Red Saunders Orchestra under direction of Gene Esposito and came out on Decca in 1957.

This record has been in my collection for a while but did not get the proper attention it deserves. I had it in a box of other similar odds and ends sitting in a back-room closet. Most likely because it’s a bit of a beater copy found at a thrift store that has some weird marks on some tracks, making them almost unplayable. Fortunately, most of it plays great, and I was pleasantly surprised when I previewed it for potential play at my gig. It is an awesome record, and I am angry at myself for letting it sit unappreciated for so long. However, I played a cut on Worldy this past Monday and will slip another in at tonight’s gig. Even with the weird scuffs that make a swooshing sound when the needle passes through the grooves on the first track and a half, I have played it several times at home this past week and it am really digging it.

Naturally, my ignorance of this record is not shared by the world in general. Turns out the album is quite collectable and highly regarded critically and a nice original copy will set you back a few bucks. In addition, Guy Warren is a total bad ass and worthy of your investigation. I can’t do his career justice here, but basically he has been credited with introducing the African “Talking Drum” to the Jazz world and inventing Afro-Jazz. Such was his virtuosity on the drums that he became known as “The Divine Drummer.”

Born Warren Gamaliel Kpakpo Akwei in Ghana, West Africa in 1923, which was then known as The Gold Coast. He was an exceptional student, athlete and musician, graduating with honors. During the Second World War, he worked for the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), the American Army department concerned with secret operations and intelligence. He worked as a journalist and broadcaster, becoming one of the first Africans to have his own show on the BBC.

He played in local bands but in the mid 1950s moved to the US as he was eager to ingratiate himself into the American Jazz community. In Chicago, he joined up with Gene Esposito and his band as percussionist and arranger. It was with Esposito and American drummer and band leader Red Saunders that he made his first album, Africa Speaks, America Answers for Decca in 1956.

During his dozen or so years in America, he worked with many of the jazz greats, Charlie Parker, Duke Ellington, Max Roach and Louis Armstrong being four of the biggest and most recognizable names. In 1974, he returned to Ghana after becoming disillusioned with America and the west but in between recorded several more albums under his own name and played on quite a few others. A couple that came out in the UK during the late 1960s are very desirable. He even has a music library album called Native Africa on the legendary UK KPM label, those of the famous green covers.

The Africa Speaks album is where it began, though, and I can see why people are willing to part with their cash to own a copy. It’s more than just a record of music; it has historical and cultural significance. Jazz was changed just as much with his drum sound and authentic African language chants as it was with the Latin influence that had previously turned the jazz world on its head.

My poor prose would never do such great music justice, so I think I will just leave you a link to the whole album and let you all judge for yourselves. I promise it to be a rewarding experience. Click here to dig in.

As always, thank you for reading and I hope I was able to steer you towards something enjoyable that will enrich your lives for listening. Peace and love - Dom

In an ideal world, I would just write about TURNSTILE again, cos one write-up simply will not do ‘Glow On’ justice! Instead of punishing you with a repeat Staff Pick, I would like to mention a few releases. Some time ago we got this 12” from MESS released on Mendeku Diskak. Mendeku Diskak is a label based in the Basque Country. I remember getting it in and thinking about the killer Japanese band ME♀SS. Their 1986 flexi is unfuckwithable!!! I’m sure I’ve mentioned it before. Unfortunately, I never took the time to listen to the new MESS cos of the old ME♀SS I love so much. Yesterday I had an order for one and tossed a copy on the turntable for the hell of it... man was I in for a treat!!! This shit is top-notch UK82 style. This release sounds like it could have been on Riot City or No Future. Of course, it is just a bit more modern sounding than the hot slabs on those labels, but in a nice crisp kind of way. The leads remind me especially of BLITZ. I hear bands who often try this style and it just comes off too ‘tough’ for me, but MESS perfectly executes this style. Shit man, as I am writing this I see the MESS has dropped a new album this month! Check it out. I will too.

Alright next note is DEATH SIDE. I’m sure most everyone has seen the new 7" plus DVD release being talked about heavily on social media. This release is coming soon on Break The Records. I didn’t think it would be possible for us to get copies at the shop, but it looks like we will get a small amount for distro! Hell yes!!! Keep your eyes peeled cos these are bound to sell-out extremely quickly. “Two out of the four songs were previously released for digital charity benefits, but the remaining two songs are completely unreleased. These songs were recorded in ‘89 for Slice Records’ compilation ‘Game of Death’ when each member recorded their own vocals. How these songs remained hidden is truly a mystery. The DVD contains footage from the late 80s to the 90s compiled with current interviews with the members. Much of this footage is also unreleased and has never been uploaded to the internet. The liner notes are written by ZIGYAKU of GUDON (愚鈍), SYSTEMATIC DEATH, BASTARD, JUDGEMENT, HALF YEARS, etc. who alongside DEATH SIDE, built the history of the hardcore scene in Japan as we know it.”

Did you see Svart Records is doing a PYHÄKOULU re-issue?! I am so excited! I don’t think we have solidified our copies yet, but I am certain we will get some for distro. You can read about it here but I will still paste some info from the page here. So exciting!! On top of loving this band, I love Svart re-issues! “This band-approved compilation includes PYHÄKOULU’s tracks from their split with ABORTTI-13, their self-titled 12″, Sankari EP, live recordings from 1987, and previously unreleased studio quality tracks the band recorded in 1989 just before calling it a day. The audio material has been carefully restored and remastered from the original tapes, and the package comes with a thick booklet full of old photos, interviews, lyrics, flyers and other memorabilia.”

Alright, DISARRAY. I decided to write about this cos it was my obligatory weekly ‘Now Playing’ post haha. I have no idea if Black Water keeps this in print or if these are just copies from the initial pressing in 2014, but Sorry State just re-upped on copies. I first heard DISARRAY when Black Water released this discography, I think? I can’t remember, but I don’t imagine me diving deep into ‘80s Japanese hardcore until around that time cos I was too busy obsessing over Swedish and Finnish hardcore. (That probably still applies today.) I moved to NC in 2014 and that is when I got access to internet at home haha. Soon after, a friend showed me Soulseek, and I went nuts on international hardcore downloading rampages. Before that time, I would have to sit outside Panera Bread or Starbucks on a laptop to steal internet and download shit off 7" Crust Blogspot or Anarcho-Punk.Net if I wanted to hear stuff like that. Anyway, there is a chance I heard DISARRAY in those days, but I am just gunna put all my praise on Black Water for properly introducing me to the band. The flexi is great. It was released on legendary ADK Records. I think this release is what they are most known for. When I first heard this flexi, I remember confusing it a lot with THE EXECUTE’s flexi. While the sounds/song-writing have some strong similarities, not much can match THE EXECUTE. When I heard DISARRAY’s second EP, it caught me off guard cos it is much more melodic and catchy than their flexi, but I still enjoy it almost just as much as the flexi. Even if you already have the flexi and the EP, this 12" is worth grabbing cos it has their 1985 demo as well. This demo has a handful of previously unreleased songs alongside a few songs that have been re-recorded, played with even more raw intensity! The sound on this tape is excellent. Before these recordings appear on the record is their 1984 demo. It is cool to hear this, but to be honest, the sound is not good at all. It is still the perfect fit for a compilation 12" though. Peep our web-store to grab one!

Speaking of Black Water, I have another note. I have been highly anticipating the NIGHTFEEDER EP coming soon on Black Water. I wrote about this band previously when we distro’d their debut cassette release. I’m assuming it is delayed just like every thing in vinyl production right now. Black Water is a fucking excellent label. I love the re-issues they do, and I love lots of the current bands they release. Alright thanks for reading everyone, ‘til next time...

Charles Kuralt from the Bob Timberlake Collection

Yesterday Dominic found a really plain looking record in a collection Daniel had just picked up, but one of the few bits of text on it was a North Carolina address, so he handed it to me. Not much comes up on Discogs, but a quick google search came up with some really expensive box sets. Like literal hand made wooden boxes with a book, this record, and some Bob Timberlake prints. If you’re from or have lived in NC for a while, you know Bob Timberlake. Every southern grandparent had one of his landscapes hanging in their house; his paintings are almost as ubiquitous as the nature he paints. Growing up with these images lining thrift stores and inoffensive walls in locations I can’t quite put my finger on (but know I’ve been to), I took for granted how state specific his work is.

I put on this record not fully recognizing Charles Kuralt’s or Bob Timberlake’s names, and as the words describing the surroundings I grew up around came on the speakers I started remembering why the record felt so familiar. The internet helped me put a name to the paintings I grew up seeing and the signature on this record. I knew who Bob Timberlake was, but I didn’t know who he was... ya know? When I looked up Charles Kuralt on Discogs, I realized I’ve owned a record he’s on for years! I found ‘North Carolina is My Home’ years ago; it was the start to picking up records having to do with my home state. Charles Kuralt was also a prolific host on CBS, so I’m sure I’ve seen his face before. My parents are transplants to the south so I didn’t grow up as steeped in Southern culture as some, but hearing Kuralt describe traditions that are so distinctly North Carolina—the tobacco sheds dotting the landscape far outside of town, apple season in the fall—made me feel nostalgic and homey.

I can’t find any recordings of this record online, but I dug into my collection and pulled out another NC gem. This was a bargain bin find I picked up because there was an NC address on the sleeve and I absolutely love it.

Dulcimer is a great instrument and very, very Appalachian. I have a lot of zither music in my collection, so it makes sense I would gravitate towards a record with a dulcimer on the cover. The Strayaway Child is a great collection of Appalachian folk songs and also happens to be one of (if not the) only record from an NC based group that I can find a recording of online. I would love to show y’all Stoney Runn, too, but alas, nothing comes up Google. If you ever see this record on Discogs, or more likely in a bargain bin, you should grab it. Somehow a group of teens got into a recording studio and a small run of vinyl pressed in Cary, NC. Not sure how it happened, but the music is great!

I’ll leave you with the best/worst NC song I found on North Carolina is My Home: the title track.

Leave a comment