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Staff Picks: February 11 2021

Staff Picks: Daniel

This week Singapore’s Sial, who released the great Tari Pemusnah Kuasa LP on La Vida Es Un Mus last year, did a guest set on online radio station NTS. The set is archived here, and I’d encourage you to listen. They play a killer mix of old punk (Discharge, Gauze), new punk (Tozcos, Kurrakä), and a bunch of cool pop music from Southeast Asia that was new to me.

I’ve listened to NTS Radio a lot lately. Sometimes I don’t have the mental energy to choose what music to listen to, and NTS’s live DJs beat the hell out of any algorithmically generated playlist. NTS is sort of like college radio, but grown up; the weakness of a lot of college radio is that the DJs are often younger and not as knowledgeable, but NTS’s cadre of DJs is impeccable. Paco from La Vida Es Un Mus has a regular show that constantly introduces me to new music, and there are frequent guest sets from artists like Bad Breeding, who delivered a killer set of vintage anarcho punk.

Some NTS shows are organized by genre, while others are more freeform. If you dig into the genre tags, you’ll find some punk and metal specialty shows, but what’s incredible about NTS are all the shows dedicated to genres I didn’t even know existed. Check out the shows that fit your interests (you’ll find that NTS’s archive is ENORMOUS), but don’t forget to check out the live stream every once in a while to have your mind blown by something new.

Staff Picks: Jeff

What’s up Sorry Staters?

Let’s talk about the Belching Penguins for a minute:

Hailing from the Tampa area, Belching Penguins were a staple of the Florida hardcore scene from the mid-to-late 80s. The band’s only proper release, Draft Beer… Not Me, came out in 1986 and is an unsung rager from the latter half of Reagan-era US hardcore. Listening to this killer LP, in terms of songwriting but MOSTLY in terms of production, there are noticeable sonic elements indicative of the era. The Belching Penguins at their core were a fast 80s hardcore band, but the guitar sound hints at the Crossover sound on the horizon. Old flyers from FL hardcore shows often feature BP on the bill with bands like DRI and Suicidal Tendencies, so this gives a good idea of what the vibe was like at a Belching Penguins gig. But then again, maybe Belching Penguins were just born too late for the way they sounded. With a foot in an earlier period of punk, I still hear attitude and riffs that remind me of classic early 80s hardcore. To me, songs like “Forget The World” and “Suburban Life” have more in common with early Wasted Youth than with Crumbsuckers or something.

In terms of the artwork, song titles, and lyrics, there is an element of crudity and silliness when you dig into the Belching Penguins. But hey, nothing wrong with a bit of humor in your hardcore, right? Still, amongst the 18 tracks featured on this LP, there are moments of innocent, but well-meaning ideas and politics. I dunno dude, it’s what I’d expect from a bunch of young punks from Florida.

Needless to say, I love this band. I was lucky enough to score an original copy of Draft Beer… Not Me a while back for relatively cheap. Now it fetches $80+, which seems crazy to me. Sorry State just stocked reissue copies of this LP released by Daddy Kool Records, which I’m pretty sure is a small independent store in the Tampa area where Belching Penguins are from. AND—the reissue LP even comes on beautiful crystal clear vinyl! We’re selling them for only $14, so if you’ve slept on the mighty Belching Penguins, do yourself a favor and grip this rager quick!

Thanks for reading,

-Jeff

Staff Picks: Dominic

Good morning, afternoon, or evening to you. Whenever and wherever you are reading this week’s newsletter, I hope it finds you well.

This week my pick has been influenced by the news of yet another sad passing in the music world. We learnt that Mary Wilson, founding member of one the greatest pop groups of all time, The Supremes, passed away Monday at 76. Her legacy as a solo artist, group member, and activist will live on and cannot be underestimated. Her story and that of The Supremes and Motown can be easily researched and you should do so if you are only vaguely aware. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Supremes I’ve realized I’m a lot older than some of you dear readers, and information that I take for granted might not be as familiar to all of you.

The Supremes were the flagship act on Motown. Mostly due to boss Berry Gordy’s interest in Diana Ross, but certainly because of the huge talent all the girls possessed. Gordy groomed the group as a classy, uptown act that would appeal to black and white audiences. They appeared in beautiful gowns and hairdos and favored a polished, feminine, and sophisticated look and approach. As a group, they notched up a dozen number one hits and became stars worldwide. Chances are The Supremes were the first act that most people heard when introduced to Motown. I can vividly remember being at a youth disco in the mid-seventies and hearing You Can’t Hurry Love for the first time and thinking how great it sounded. A love affair with Motown, Soul music and records began that night. Kudos to the DJ for playing adult themed records to us kids that night. Anyway, The Supremes along with Smokey Robinson & The Miracles, The Temptations, The Four Tops, The Marvelettes and Martha & The Vandellas, defined the Motown sound and ruled the mid-sixties charts home and away. The Motown influence on the British Invasion acts cannot be under-played. The Beatles were big fans. It was a wonderful era of cross Atlantic inspiration as the ball of creativity passed back and forth between the US and the UK. Beatles covering Motown. Motown covering Beatles etc. etc.

Motown and soul music in general connected to the working-class kids of Britain and laid the foundations for what we now term Northern Soul. But that’s a whole other story.

Back to The Supremes. Although a four piece in their early days, the core of the group was Mary Wilson, Florence Ballard and Diana Ross. Although it took a minute to find the right song and to register a hit, from early 1964 through 1967 it was hit after hit. Where Did Our Love Go, Baby Love (their first UK number one), Come See About Me, Stop! In The Name Of Love, Back In my Arms Again, all hit the top spot. Ballard, however, was replaced by Cindy Birdsong in 1967 and when Ross herself left for her solo career to be replaced by Jean Terrell early in 1970, it left Mary Wilson as the only original member. She remained throughout the 1970s until the group disbanded. Other members came and went, including a brief return by Cindy Birdsong in 1973, who had left the year before to start a family.

The 70s Supremes records get overlooked by most, but for those in the know, these records hold some real gems. The last couple of albums have some good disco era soul music and for my money, the second post Diana Ross Supremes album from 1970 called New Ways But Love Stays might be their best. With Ross’s replacement Jean Terrell handling the leads and produced by Frank Wilson, the album contained the hit Stoned Love and embraced the funkier and slightly psychedelic side of soul music that elsewhere at Motown producer Norman Whitfield was making with The Temptations and The Undisputed Truth. My favorite track is It’s Time To Break Down, which has become a digger’s nugget. It always went down well as a DJ track for me and has been sampled by hip-hop producers, most notably by DJ Premier for Gang Starr. The album artwork too is a little different from previous Supremes records, sporting a more “Black Power” look from the girls on the front cover and back photo.

Years ago, in the 1990s, I was fortunate enough to be working on a cruise ship that had Mary Wilson as one of the star acts. I got to see her perform up close and had the opportunity to say hello and briefly speak to her. It was a huge honor and is banked in my vault of treasured memories. Talking of the ships, I was also lucky to be the personal dining room waiter to jazz legend Sarah Vaughan during one of my early voyages. A story for another time, but I still get chills thinking about how amazing it was to have conversations with her.

So, let us raise our glasses to Mary Wilson, The Supremes, Motown, and all the incredible artists that created this treasure trove of American music. Artistry so fine, it made such an impact, the ripples are still being felt around the world. This is The Sound Of Young America and is what helped make America Great. Part of history now, hopefully not just remembered in February, but celebrated year long.

Here’s a link to the cut I mentioned above for you to enjoy-It’s Time To Break Down

https://youtu.be/be3wN2E9VGE

and also, another one of my fave Supremes tracks that still goes down well when played to a dance floor, a song called Love Is Like An Itching In My Heart that came off their 1966 classic LP The Supremes A’ Go-Go.

Until next time kids - Dom

Staff Picks: Usman

I know there are always bands that play USHC like this (I mean duh, we do live in the States), but since the pandemic began I feel like we’ve seen an increase of such bands. While all the bands I heard were killer, I think that Quarantine is the cream of the crop. This band is called Quarantine, but it’s got nothing to do with Covid-19. The band began in 2019 after a member of Savageheads moved down to Philly. This dude, Jack, wrote all the songs and also released the tape on a new label called Damage United. It was recorded and released early 2020 (still before there were any known Covid-19 cases in the States). It originally came out in a quantity of 175, but I think they sold quickly. I first learned about this band after the tapes had sold-out. I was messaging a friend of mine, Chris, who is also a transplant to Philly. He is excellent at playing every single fucking instrument, and an amazing song writer. Anything he does is always fucking killer, he’s been in too many bands to list. We were lucky enough to have him throw 50 tapes together for us to slang here in Raleigh. We’ve already blown through most em, so act fast if you wanna grab one! They come with a sick double-sided j-card with more folds than you can handle! Plus a sticker. If yer reading this and missed out, e-mail me cos I might have a copy for you. I think I have a copy or two of the Sirkka tape as well (in.decay@yahoo.com). Quarantine has an LP in the works and will be out soon on Damage United! I leave you a message from Quarantine to the elite. ‘Til next time...

Staff Picks: Rachel

I haven’t been paying attention to much music outside of my record collection. I buy a lot of things and don’t listen to them for an embarrassing amount of time. As I’ve been organizing, I’ve been trying to go through my “to listen” stack because it’s getting out of hand. It’s been fun and I’m having a hard time choosing just one thing to talk about, so here’s a few…

Lights Out! Murder Castle Radio Play 12” (1974)

This is a radio play from 1943 and surprisingly dark for the time. It’s a conversation between a woman and a man who murders women in his “murder castle.” The B side is equally entertaining with a story called “The Witch’s Tale” narrated by a witch from 1852.

Ruth Welcome - Zither Magic 12” (1959)

I couldn’t refuse an album cover with a witch holding a zither. One of my favorite bargain bins to date! Honestly, it’s just zither music, but it’s enjoyable and good background music. Also, it’s a witch holding a zither.

Various: Folksong Festival Sampler 7” (1967)

I have a thing where I always put on a Scholastic Records release because I’m rarely disappointed. The last thing I was expecting was a song called “I Wanna Die Easy;” the lyrics are in the title. It’s a great song, but it’s funny to see it on a Scholastic release. The rest of it has some great old folk songs, but I’m so glad I own it for that one song alone.

I realize after writing about these, they are all bargain bin finds from various places. My favorite part of record collecting, and the part that expanded my collection the quickest, is digging through bargain bins and finding some weird shit. I’m never disappointed. It’s always worth it to dig, even if you have to get down! I forgot to take a picture of these particular releases so here's a picture of Eggroll arguing with me about sitting on my record player.


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