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Staff Picks: December 10th 2020

Staff Picks: Daniel

Special Interest: Street Pulse Beat (Boy Harsher Remix)

This week at Sorry State we started discussing our Best of 2020 lists, so I’ve been thinking about all the great albums that have come out this year. Near the top of that list is Special Interest’s The Passion of, which I encourage you to check out if you haven’t already. However, this week’s staff pick is something I noticed drop on bandcamp last week: a Boy Harsher remix of “Street Pulse Beat,” one of the standout tracks from The Passion of.

I don’t know if I’ve written about them for Sorry State, but I love Boy Harsher and listen to them all the time. They’re a popular group so you might have heard them already, but if you haven’t, they play dance-oriented darkwave / EBM that everyone from punks to indie kids to electronic nerds seems to love. We try to keep their full-lengths in stock at Sorry State, but I’m sure you can check them out on any number of channels.

The darkwave sound that is Boy Harsher’s specialty is also a big element of Special Interest’s sound, though Special Interest is messier, noisier, and more eclectic. While The Passion of has some big vocal hooks, the gritty sound oforces the listener to work to hear them. Boy Harsher gives “Street Pulse Beat” an entirely new backing track that sounds like something lifted straight out of their catalog, so on this version Special Interest’s incredible vocals get to be the star of the show. Boy Harsher’s own vocals tend to be layered in effects and sit back in the mix, so this isn’t a case of one group making another’s song better, but rather two groups bringing their strengths to the table and something really magical happening.

You can head over to Special Interest’s bandcamp to buy the track, which is part of a 12-track remix album that sees an impressive mix of underground producers tackling tracks from The Passion of. There’s even an old school 12” maxi-single available that features the Boy Harsher remix if you need to get it on wax for your next DJ night.  

Staff Picks: Jeff

What’s up Sorry Staters?

Chances are that if you were to type the phrase “Vixen metal band” into a Google search, your results would overwhelmingly relate to the pop/hair metal band from the late 80s. I like “Edge of a Broken Heart” as much as the next guy, but did you know that there was another metal band called Vixen from several years prior? Maybe if you were to ask well-versed metal enthusiasts about this band, they’d respond “Duh,” but I had no idea this band existed.

So this older band isn’t all women like the late-80s group, but they are still fronted by a girl singer. The band released other records under different monikers and lineups, but this is the only release under the name “Vixen” with vocalist Kim La Chance singing. Before changing their name to Vixen, the band went by Aloha, which GET THIS: they’re a metal band from Hawaii of all places. The band later even released a couple LPs under the band name Hawaii. Crazy... and it gets crazier: while I was listening, I was particularly amazed by the insanely great guitar work on this recording. Turns out, the guitarist in this band is a young Marty Friedman who would later play with Megadeth!

This record was originally released in 1983 as a 5-song single-sided 12” on Azra Records, an indie label that put out a lot of great lesser-known metal from the early-to-mid 80s. Not unlike many of the bands on Azra, Vixen basically sounds like early speed metal, kinda similar to bands like Jag Panzer or Exciter. There are a couple of fast songs with double kick drum, but we’re by no means talking thrash territory. The recording is super raw and unpolished, which for me adds to the charm. Even so, you can tell all the members are incredible musicians. Even for being so early in his career, Marty Friedman shreds all over this record—usually in very long dual-harmonized guitar lead flourishes. There’s so much killer lead playing that in the 5 tracks on this record, only 3 of them have vocals. The first song and the closer are all instrumental with tons of guitar wankery.

While the delivery of the music has intensity and attitude, the vocals are super melodic—borderline classical music at times. There’s this moment in the track “Living In Sin” where it breaks down to nothing but a capella vocals, and the singer does this high-pitched section of “ah-ahs” that literally sounds like a soundbite from an opera. At first thought this is cheesy, but they make up for it with badass metal lyrics about demonic sacrifice m/

Sorry State just got in this reissue on Nuclear War Now!, which is not single-sided. Instead, the B-side has compilation tracks and demo versions of some songs which date all the way back to 1981. If you’re a denim-and-leather-clad speed metal freak and were convinced that the only band called Vixen just plays soft pop-metal, then you NEED to hear this record.

I feel like if you had to hear one track, I’d jam “Living in Sin”, but I just suggest getting the full experience and taking it all in at once:

As always, thanks for reading,

-Jeff

Staff Picks: Eric

Terminal Bliss - LP (forthcoming)

The brand new band Terminal Bliss just released two songs on their bandcamp this past week that grabbed my attention. Although this band may be new, the members have been around for over twenty years in Virginia creating wild and extreme music. Featuring members of Pg. 99, Darkest Hour, and City of Caterpillar (just to name a few), these two chaotic punk anthems are fast, pissed, and (at least for me) a bit nostalgic.

I’ve always tried my best to keep up with what Mike (guitar) and Chris Taylor (vocals) are up to, because it seems like everything they touch is unique and inspiring to me. I’ve loved everything those brothers have done from Pg. 99 to Malady to Haram (the northern Virginia band from like 15 years ago, not the contemporary punk band from NYC) to Mannequin to Pygmylush. And I’m stoked I get to add Terminal Bliss to my list.

So far these two tracks remind me of what the “loud” Pygmylush songs sound like. They’re very short, spastic and chaotic. I kinda hate using the term “chaotic;” it makes me think of some bad swoopy hair screamo or some shit. But ionno, right now it feels like the right way to describe it!

What makes these doings different than Pygmylush songs is how much heavier they are; you can tell they have matured and are taking more influence from crust and noisy dbeat hardcore.

Although the sound may be different, you can still tell instantly this is a Taylor brothers’ band. Chris’ vocals are the same borderline scream/melodic shriek that I loved in Pygmylush, Malady, and Pg. 99, and his delivery is unique to the niche style he has carved out for himself. Moreover, Mike’s riffs are another aspect of the group that is unique and I can usually recognize them when I hear them.

Maybe I grew up in Northern Virginia and I am just a nerd for this kind of shit, or maybe it just kicks ass. It’s like you can hear the sounds of Virginia heavy music just oozing out of it and I fucking dig it. Their LP is coming out on Relapse soon, and I can’t wait to hear it. In the meantime, check out these tracks:

Staff Picks: Dominic

Hey there everyone in Sorry State Land. I hope the world is treating you right?  

Last week I dipped into some 45s we got in and highlighted a few I enjoyed. Hopefully some of you did too? We have some great sevens of all descriptions in the store so please take a look if you visit and for those hungry for more, ask to look in the several boxes we have in the back. Those of you not living local may want to check our Discogs store also, as we have a lot of singles listed there with plenty of bargains.

This week I am going to stay with the seven-inch format and tell you about a cool 45 that I recently received in the mail.

Brute Force: Nobody Knows b/w King Of Fuh. Apple/Ace. 1969/2020

Brute Force was the pseudonym and stage name for American musician Stephen Friedland. Interested in music from a young age, he found his way to New York City and began writing songs and playing on sessions. Eventually he wound up writing for The Tokens and playing keyboards and guitar with them. He worked for RCA and then BT Puppy as a writer and the B-side of this single I am talking about today was a minor hit for The Chiffons under the full title “Nobody Knows What’s Goin’ On In My Mind But Me.” In 1967 he wrote and recorded an album for Columbia titled I, Brute Force: Confections Of Love which is an interesting Pop-Psych record with a sense of humour. It didn’t sell too well at the time and although nowadays you can find a copy online for around $25, for a while it was tough scoring a copy. In 1968, he recorded a tune with The Tokens about a king who lived in a mythical land called Fuh. When the lyrics are sung, they make the Fuh King sound like something else. As a result, the Tokens knew BT Puppy wouldn’t release the record but through connections between The Beatles manager Brian Epstein and Nat Weiss, the manager of a friend’s band called The Cyrkle, the song made its way to George Harrison and John Lennon, who both liked it. Harrison assisted with some overdubs and the record ended up coming out in the UK only on Apple, awarded the catalogue number Apple 8. It had a small run of about a thousand copies, although this number is debated, many saying less and some more. As a result, it became the rarest Apple record and for a good while an original copy would set you back hundreds, then thousands of dollars more recently. Friedland managed to reissue the song later on his own label, albeit with a different B-side, Tapeworm Of Love. Naturally, such a desirable record got bootlegged, so there are copies out there.

Thankfully, Ace Records in the U.K. have reissued the single and you don’t have to break the bank to get a copy. I was particularly pleased getting my copy as it came signed by Brute Force himself. My friend, Chaim O’Brien-Blumenthal, up in New York is a writer and music enthusiast and last year had a great interview with Brute Force and an article published in Ugly Things magazine—a fantastic resource for wild sounds from past dimensions. He had several copies of the single signed for friends and also sent me a copy of the magazine plus a signed photo of Brute Force too. Brilliant. Many thanks to him.

As for the tunes? Honestly, the novelty factor of King Of Fuh is cool and funny but the tune itself is a simple keyboard and Mellotron led ditty with not too much going on musically other than the lyrics. However, It is a song we might relate to given the past four years of rule under our current “King”. For me, the B-side is much more entertaining, a real song and certainly one of the more interesting titles given to The Chiffons. The version Brute Force recorded for himself is a nice piece of Pop-Psych, again keyboard and Mellotron led with a decent backbeat and guitar stabs and sound effects added by crinkling the cellophane wrapper off of a packet of Kools. Taken right out of the Paul McCartney chewing on celery for The Beach Boys book of sound effects.  

I’ll be the first to admit that the high collector’s price attributed to the original single is more down to it being on Apple than the musical quality, but it’s still a nifty little 45 and a fun listen. The whole Brute Force story is an interesting tale and I encourage fans of obscure sixties artists to read further. The Ugly Things story is excellent and, as always, the internet will provide you with plenty of information and answers. I’ll leave links to the two sides for you to check out.

Nobody Knows-

King Of Fuh-

Thanks for reading and I hope these dips into obscure non-punk sounding records interest you out there? Everything is connected, and nothing comes out of a void. There’s almost a hundred years of popular music out there on records to discover and enjoy, and connecting the dots between songs and styles and artists and their influences is a fun way to spend your time. Never stop digging. Until next time.

-Dom

Staff Picks: Usman

I remember when this record came out, but I dropped the ball on grabbing one. I was window shopping on discogs last week and saw End Of An Ear had this 12” and a Languid 7" for a great price, so I smashed that metaphorical window and made the purchase. I hate the collector mentality of a lot of sellers on discogs, but I’ve still bought hundreds of records on there since 2012. Aside from the rip-off attitudes a lot of dickheads have on there, it’s a vast database of knowledge that I reference daily. One of my favorite features is that almost every text is a clickable link; I discover a lot of interesting shit cos of this. Anyway, soon after I bought the record Daniel asked me to help him put in a wholesale order from Konton Crasher. So, we have a huge shipment soon to be on the way where we’ll be re-stocking all the Konton Crasher titles that have been sold-out on our webstore PLUS almost every single other title they have released, including this hot ass Mueco slab.

To me, the Mueco vibe is somewhere between Framtid and Doom. The sound reminds me of some of my all-time favorite Japanese bands like Crocodileskink, Abraham Cross, and Collapse Society. The sound is perfect; it’s so harsh and unrelenting. I wish I had more records like this one; it is a record I can flip endlessly and not get tired of the songs. It’s the kind of record that I turn the volume knob louder and louder as I listen cos I literally cannot get enough, to the point my receiver can’t handle the intensity and shuts off from over-heating haha. Mueco is a three-piece from Canada. Being a compelling three-piece band is no easy feat. To not only maintain the instruments staying locked in together, but also singing in another rhythm and simultaneously play yer instrument on top of it blows my fucking mind. The drums are mixed so well, and the snare drum sounds killer. I think getting a good snare sound is one of the hardest elements of recording a band. I have never recorded a band, but I form this opinion by having been recorded a fair amount on drums and working with Jeff on his mixes. And by working, I mean him playing me mix after mix and trying to make words to explain how I think it should change. I don’t know a thing about recording. But one important thing (of many) I’ve learned from Jeff about mixing is that you must make “space” for all the sounds that are happening. If something isn’t “loud” enough, it doesn’t mean you just turn the volume up on that mic. It means you have to take another sonic element, and tone it down/move it around on the stereo spectrum in order to make space for what you can’t hear.

I’ve been busy and my mind has been preoccupied so I will stop writing here. If yer reading this, I hope you are doing alright, and thank you for reading. I was doing okay for the first 7/8 months of the quarantine, but I am wearing thin now, and fast. I miss hanging out. I miss gigs. I miss my family. I am grateful for this job at Sorry State, and very grateful to have Scarecrow staying productive regardless of the pandemic. We are almost done recording for an EP to be released in 2021 and have even begun working on even newer material. I am lucky to have such good friends as bandmates and co-workers. Without that, I think I would have nothing to keep me going.


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