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Staff Picks: February 4 2021

Staff Picks: Daniel

Last week Dominic wrote about compilations, and this week I added one to my collection so I thought I’d write about it. I think my friend Osamu turned me on to this compilation years ago. I liked it immediately and returned to the digital files he gave me from time to time. I’d been after a vinyl copy for a long time, and finally a cheap one popped up at Torn Light Records in Cincinnati and I smashed that buy button.

The word “punk” is conspicuously absent from this record’s title, though an inclusive definition of the term might include these bands. While you won’t find any studs or mohawks on these singles, they’re all from the punk era, but aim for a more commercial sound. A few of them (like the Pleasers) would have fallen into the early 80s mod revival scene. Protex is the best-known band on the record (though they appear with their Polydor single “I Can’t Cope” rather than any of their Good Vibrations-era tracks), though I imagine most of these bands are staples of UK dollar bins (at least they were pre-vinyl revival).

I’m a huge fan of Protex, but my favorite track on this record is the Secret’s 1979 single “Night After Night.” I’m partial to punk/power-pop bands with a heavy Bowie influence… I’d put the Boys and the Only Ones (two of my favorite bands of this ilk) in that category, and this song by the Secret (I’m unfamiliar with their other material) fits the same mold. “Night After Night” starts with a goofy, dramatic-sounding vocal in the verse, then builds tension through a long pre-chorus section. I think they tease us for extra long in that section because they know this track’s chorus is so fantastic. It has a broad, memorable melody and the lead guitar and vocals harmonize in a way that seems almost surreal. It sounds very 70s to me, like I could imagine the track appearing in an episode of The Love Boat. It’s a total power-pop earworm on an album chock full of them.

I was glad to find this album on Discogs because it is clearly a bootleg. While it’s marked as unofficial on Discogs, they haven’t banned it from sale (at least not yet). I think the cover art looks kind of cool in its way, but the sound quality varies from track to track, and it sounds like most of the songs come from vinyl rips. It’s all about the track curation, though, and that is excellent. The slapdash execution even adds to the charm, if you ask me. Oh, and there’s also a second volume, and while it’s not as good as this one, it’s worth having.

Check out “Night After Night” by the Secret:

Staff Picks: Jeff

What’s up Sorry Staters?

So I was racking my brain trying to think about what to write about for my staff pick this week. We’ve been getting a ton of cool new releases and restocks in, but for whatever reason, if I’m being honest, I’ve felt too busy for anything to hold my attention.

I’m going to try to frame this in a way that doesn’t insult anybody or bum anyone out:

As much as I love me some raging hardcore made by teenagers, I don’t know if it’s that I’m getting closer to 30, but lately I feel like I finally understand bands like Magazine and The Stranglers. Not that these bands represent a demographic of “what to listen to if you’re an aging punker.” Still, when I was younger and immersed in hardcore, I remember listening to these bands and not understanding it and even being kinda turned off by them. I dunno if it’s that as I’m getting a bit “older” (relatively speaking) I’m feeling like I don’t need all-out rage and intensity from my punk anymore, or god forbid that my taste is “maturing.” I don’t know why it’s making me trip out so much, but like am I calming down? I had a moment where I was listening to the song “Hanging Around” by The Stranglers and thought to myself: “Damn, that organ part is sick!” I felt concerned, like why do I like that? Upon revisiting a few records I lump into this category, I don’t know why, but I just can’t get enough. Of course, I’m sure most people would still consider these punk bands. But you know what I mean… you see photos of these guys and they don’t have charged hair or studded leather jackets. I hate to use the word “scholarly,” but I think part of the reason I steered away from certain bands was because they have an air of intellectualism. Then again, one song I’ve played over and over is “Rhythm of Cruelty” by Magazine, which has a pop sensibility and the riff doesn’t sound too far off from Black Album-era Damned to me.

It’s funny though, whenever we get in new records by certain bands one might describe as “experimental,” Daniel always jokes on them saying, “Oh, I see you finally discovered Fun House by The Stooges.” But just because I’ve been digging this stuff lately doesn’t mean I’m going to start my “mature” punk band. Or at least I hope not. Don’t worry, I still like Poison Idea and Totalitär.

Why don’t ya go ahead and jam that Magazine track for me.

Thanks for reading,

-Jeff

Staff Picks: Eric

Replacements: Don’t Tell A Soul 12” (1989)

I have been a Replacements fan since I was teenager. Tracks like “Androgynous,” “Kiss Me On The Bus,” “Alex Chilton,” and “Can’t Hardly Wait” were my anthems for a long time. My old band, Concussion, used to cover “Tommy Gets His Tonsils Out.” Arguably, all of those tracks come from the more classic era of The Replacements and I never explored too much past the album Pleased To Meet Me. I had given Don’t Tell A Soul and All Shook Down (their last two official albums) a listen many years ago, but wrote them off as too soft or too “adult” sounding. In the past year I have explored more of Paul Westerberg’s solo material and I have been enjoying it. A friend of mine reminded me that Don’t Tell A Soul and All Shook Down are basically Paul Westerberg solo albums, sonically and in vibe, so I gave it another go. Somewhere along the way I picked up both albums on cassette and they have been on heavy rotation on my tape deck. I was debating which album to write about and ended up deciding on this one. Maybe I listened to DTAS more recently and it’s fresher on my brain (either way I recommend both).

DTAS is a big leap from their previous album Pleased To Meet Me. It sounds like a precursor to the melancholy 90s sound we all recognize. It’s reminiscent of an Americana kind of sound that takes notes from blues and r&b while still hanging onto 80s rock sensibilities; kinda like if Bruce Springsteen wasn’t such a cornball. The songwriting is more mature and maybe that’s why it took me a while to come around to later era Replacements. Maybe I’m getting older and my taste is changing a bit, or maybe it’s just that I now understand what Paul Westerberg is trying to do. I feel the same way about a band like Fugazi whom I was introduced to at a young age, but it never stuck because my young punk brain didn’t have patience for it, but now Fugazi is another band that I have on heavy rotation. I don’t think that Don’t Tell A Soul is an album you can listen to once and understand it, but once you realize Paul Westerberg is a fuckin’ genius and perhaps one of the best American song writers of all time, you’ll love it.

Staff Picks: Dominic

Hey there friends out in Sorry State land. How are you this week? Keeping it together? I feel you.

I wasn’t sure what to talk to you about this week. Nothing new there. Life and the world at large are throwing so many things at us daily that music appreciation seems trivial. It’s not, but finding inspiration can be difficult. I sit in my home surrounded by thousands of records and sometimes wonder what to play next. I still have the hunger for new sounds, and listening to a new record will keep me occupied. There are times though that you need to hear the familiar. Music has the power to attach itself to memories, points in our lives that were important to us. I can’t tell you where and when I first read a book or saw a film that I like, but I can recall hearing a certain record for the first time and how it affected me. Hearing a song or an albumcan transport us to a time and place of our lives. Hopefully bringing back good memories, but sometimes not. This week I want to talk about just that.

Whilst chatting with and assisting one of our regular friends here at the store, the conversation about records got around to the 80s and the band Frankie Goes To Hollywood. We had a copy of their debut LP Welcome To The Pleasuredome sitting in our bargain bin rack and I persuaded Adam to take it, convincing him that the record was more than the couple of hits and still stood up. Here in the US, they were considered one-hit wonders with the song Relax, although the song Two Tribes and the album also charted. People remember the hype and all the Frankie Says T-shirts and not much else. Their follow up LP flopped, and singer Holly Johnson left the band for a solo career and legal disputes with ZTT, the band’s former label. However, from late 1983 through 1984, Frankie ruled the British charts and were everywhere. Their story and rise to fame is interesting and I encourage you to explore the internet and read. I remember that time vividly, particularly the release of the first single Relax. I was a schoolboy and obsessed with music and the charts, and each week would listen on my transistor radio to the new chart list being read out at lunch time every Tuesday. Relax had been making waves in the clubs since its October 1983 release and was quickly rising up the charts. The band performed on Top Of The Pops and there was a risqué video made for the song. The song was at number six when prime time Radio One DJ Mike Reed suddenly realized what the song was about and on air removed it from the turntable. The BBC promptly banned it. Thing is, by next week the song was at number one and stayed there for five weeks straight and remained in the charts for most of the year. As they had banned it, the BBC couldn’t play it each week or have the top band in the country appear on its flagship chart show. Irony. Frankie followed up Relax with the song Two Tribes and then The Power Of Love and album Welcome To The Pleasure Dome. All went straight to number one. At the time this equaled the record of having the first three singles go to number one held by fellow Scousers Gerry And The Pacemakers. The record was later broken by The Spice Girls.

Although not from Liverpool, I feel a very close bond to the city and its people. From early childhood I have been a supporter of Liverpool Football Club and loved bands that come from Merseyside. At the beginning of this year, we suffered another sad loss with the passing of Gerry Marsden, lead singer of the aforementioned Gerry And The Pacemakers. He and his group will forever be linked to Liverpool FC thanks to their version of You’ll Never Walk Alone, the anthem sung before and after every game. With this sad loss and also the current dip in form of the Mighty Reds, I was feeling down in the dumps. After the conversation with Adam in the store about Frankie, I went home and dug out my copy and stuck it on. It still holds up for me and transported me back to another time and place. Also, that they reference Gerry And The Pacemakers on the record with a sort of cover of Ferry Across The Mersey, tied everything together and made listening now just as relevant. Aside from the incredible songs Relax and Two Tribes, there is a lot more to enjoy on the double LP. They even cover the songs War by The Temptations, Do You Know The Way To San Jose, made famous by Dionne Warwick and (cough) Bruce Springsteen’s Born To Run. There is also the odd bit of dialogue in between tracks and scouse humour. Finishing with the great ballad The Power Of Love. The latter being the final single that went to number one and a song whose lyrics should have some worth these days. Actually, listening to Two Tribes again, a song about the East-West Cold War, it sounds just as relevant although the two tribes fighting are now within our own country. Two Tribes is a massive tune. Hearing that, particularly the various mixes made of it, in clubs at the time was an experience. Kudos to producer Trevor Horn and his studio team for coming up with such a great contemporary sound that, although strongly linked to the time, still stands up.

At the same time as I was revisiting the Frankie record, another LP came through our bargain bin that also came out from the same period and has a Liverpool connection. It’s the soundtrack to the film Letter To Brezhnev. The film is a romantic comedy set in Liverpool during the 80s and concerns two Russian sailors on leave in Liverpool who meet a couple of girls on a night out. It has some good moments and offers a glimpse of life on Merseyside in the mid 1980s. The soundtrack has some good moments too. One of my favorite groups, A Certain Ratio, are on it with a track called Wild Party, but the highlight for me is Bronski Beat and their Hit That Perfect Beat. What a great pop song. It was used in the film to soundtrack the party scenes and I defy anyone who might be on the lash out in a club and that comes on not to want to dance. Great stuff. I haven’t watched the film since it came out and it may or may not have aged well, but I think I would enjoy it again. It was another part of my life journey growing up and I ended up being sailor myself and visiting Russia and falling for a girl there. Kind of a reverse of the movie.

So there you go. Music and memories tied together. You will have your own and will make more as life goes on. I would encourage you to pick up either of these records at your local record emporium or wherever else you buy music. They shouldn’t set you back very much at all and I think you will get great value for money, especially for the Frankie LP. The gatefold cover art alone is worth the price of admission.

Here are a couple of clips to get you started. Check out some of the extended remixes for more.

Thanks for reading and I’ll see you all next time. Go make some memories with records. Oh, and pop music can have punk attitude btw just in case some of you are questioning my choices this week. Lol. Peace.

Staff Picks: Usman

Dismachine / Cumbrage: Split 7” (Your Own Jailer Records, 1995)

I search discogs for copies of this record all the time. It’s a highly underrated record, so they are usually cheap but not often in the USA. I like to get copies of underrated shit and give them to friends or pen-pals. I searched this week and saw Sorry State had listed a copy, haha. I thought about buying it, but instead I am highlighting it here in the Newsletter, hoping it will find a good home. I first heard this split cos of Dismachine. Dismachine is cool, but I only heard them cos they did a split with Totalitär. They blast a lot. Usually I hate that, but to be honest, I fucking love how they do it. It’s not like grindcore-y; it just sounds like literal insanity. I write about this EP cos of the other side of the split, Cumbrage. Both these bands feature Jan Jutila, THE Swedish d-beat master. I understand how cheesy that sounds, but I don’t care… it is true. Jutila is like the Kawakami of Sweden. I’m sure most people do not read the shit I write here, and certainly not consistently, but I have written about Jutila before in a Staff Pick, when I wrote about Times Square Preachers (another fucking killer 90’s Swedish band). I also mentioned his recording studio, his label, and the countless amazing releases he mastered. I don’t wanna repeat myself, or take the time/space to explain shit again so you can read about it here if you want! As I write this I am at the shop which means I don’t have my records to inspect to give the full nerdom. Jutila is in both bands though. I forget what he did in Dismachine, but I’m pretty sure he sang in Cumbrage. Anyway, I mentioned before the real reason I write about this is cos the Cumbrage side. This shit is mid ‘90s but sounds like traditional käng. So damn good. In the same vein as Harass and Dispense, other top-notch 90s Swedish mängel you need to peep asap if you haven’t alongside this split! If yer turned off by the blasts in Dismachine, don’t skip out on Cumbrage cos they come after the Dismachine tracks.


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