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Staff Picks: January 28 2021

Staff Picks: Daniel

Janet Kay: “Silly Games” (1979)

The BBC series Small Axe has been making the rounds among the Sorry State staff. I think Dominic recommended it to Usman, who then recommended it to me. Small Axe isn’t so much a TV series as an anthology of short films, and the first one I watched was the second episode, titled Lovers Rock. The film depicts a house party (presumably in London in the late 70s) where people from that city’s West Indian community get together, dance, sing along to their favorite records, ingest intoxicants, fall in love, get in fights, and do all the other things young people do. In contrast to the frenzied way directors usually depict American teen house parties in film, director Steve McQueen slows the pace way down in Lovers Rock, lingering on long shots and scenes that emphasize the depth and richness of the characters’ interactions. We hear several songs in their entirety, and those scenes are particularly magical.

The standout track in the film, for me at least, is Janet Kay’s 1979 single, “Silly Games.” It’s been stuck in my head ever since I watched and I’ve been playing it over and over. It’s a great track whose chorus climaxes with an impossibly high note. The song’s writer, Dennis Bovell, said this about the note (from Wikipedia): “There was an advert for Memorex where Ella Fitzgerald sang a note and broke a glass, and I wanted a song with a note like that; little girls always try to sing a high note, so when I wrote ‘Silly Games’ and put that high note in there, it meant that every female in the dance would try and sing that note.” Lovers Rock uses “Silly Games” in a beautifully creative way, that high note in particular. I won’t ruin it for you… just watch the film and you’ll know what I’m talking about.

Staff Picks: Jeff

What’s up Sorry Staters?

Ever have those moments where you discover something so obvious and then all the stars align?

CIA is an 80s hardcore band that had eluded me for a long time, but over the last couple years has become a big favorite. Their Gods, Guts, Guns 7” is now one of my top wants, and I hope to score an og copy one day. Another band that I’ve been more familiar with for a long time is 76% Uncertain. I’ve been into them since I was a teenager and have both of their classic LPs. Some of you out there may already know where this is going…

There was one day a few weeks ago when Usman and I were both working at Sorry State. We had the CIA compilation reissue LP and 76% Uncertain’s Nothing But Love Songs LP sitting in the used bins. Serendipitously, I grabbed both LPs to add to a stack of records for us to listen to that day. The CIA LP got thrown on first, and I was raging behind the counter to the 7 minutes’ worth of tracks that appear on their classic 7”. But once it started getting into bonus tracks and songs from CIA’s compilation appearances, I was shocked to hear when suddenly “I Hate The Radio” started playing. As a teenager, even though I love the ripping fast songs on the 76% Uncertain records, I always thought “I Hate The Radio” was a standout track on their 2nd LP. I grabbed both records and stared at the track listings on the back covers to make sure I wasn’t crazy. But whaddaya know? Not only is it the same dude singing, but quite a few people from CIA went on to be in 76% Uncertain.

Being the nerd I am, it is pretty embarrassing for me to admit I never made this connection before. I knew both bands were from Connecticut, but I don’t have the CIA 7”, so I don’t have liner notes to look at to see who the members of the band were. Also, I’d never discovered the Nice And Loud compilation which features the CIA version of this classic banger. But looking further into it, I found out that there are even more obvious connections, like that the 2 76 LPs I own and the CIA 7” that I covet are the only 3 releases on Shmegma Records… which was the singer’s label… Damn. Also, I realized both bands are connected to Reflex From Pain, whose Black and White 7” I have. Does this just mean I love 80s Connecticut hardcore? Or maybe I just love records that Bones and the Knapp brothers are involved with. As much as I felt like a doofus before I figured all this out, I still felt excited drawing these connections. Finally got learnt.

Here’s some killer but awkward public access footage of 76% Uncertain shredding this anthem:

Thanks for reading,

-Jeff

Staff Picks: Eric

Wassup everyone? Here are a couple things I picked up in the past couple weeks I thought I’d share with you:

The Retros - Can’t Find Her/Talk About It 7”: I picked this one up on a whim from Vinyl Conflict because the picture sleeve looked like a classic power pop single. It’s a picture of the band leaning against a wall that says “Positively NO LOITERING.” Around the picture is a pink frame with track titles (a very classic look). Like many of these out there and/or lesser known singles, the A-side is a jam and the B-side feels weak by comparison. “Can’t Find Her” is the track that the cover looks like (if that makes sense?). It’s an upbeat, catchy and twangy song. The vocals are a little rock-a-billy esque which isn’t usually my thing, but it fits great. The B-side, “Talk About It”, is still a solid track but is a little too laid back for my taste. If “Can’t Find Her” is more reminiscent of a classic power pop song, I’d say “Talk About It” sounds more like a 60s pop song. Either way, stoked I picked it up!

Vice Squad - Stand Strong Stand Proud 12”: This is another one I picked up at Vinyl Conflict. I hadn’t listened to a lot of Vice Squad until recently. I guess I was never introduced to them at a young age (I did see a Vice Squad cover band that Usman was in a couple years ago, that was cool). I’m vibing on this record pretty hard, though. This is their second album and last one with the original line-up. It sounds more like a California punk band than it does a UK82 band. I can’t help but feel reminded of bands like Legal Weapon, The Avengers, or The Bags. By comparison to their first album, No Cause For Concern, this one is more polished and bigger sounding, but I’m into it. My favorite track is “Rock ‘N’ Roll Massacre”, what a fuckin’ jam!

Staff Picks: Dominic

What’s happening Sorry Staters? Wishing you all well out there.

This week I wanted to talk about compilation LPs and how great they can be on several levels. Over the years, the way we listen to music has changed immensely. Nowadays, you have the internet and all the streaming services and video channels to access so much music. You can hear about a record for the first time one minute, and the next minute can download it and be listening to it. (Adopting comedy voice) In my day you had to either buy the record, hear it played on the radio or at a club or know someone who had a copy to hear obscure music. Everything wasn’t available at the click of a mouse. You had to work hard to access new music. Digging deep was a dedicated endeavor.

After some years of releasing popular music, several bright sparks had the idea of releasing compilation albums of hard-to-find music from bygone eras. There were your label curated compilation records, where the music typically came from the vaults of one label, and then you had the new generation of compilations where the music was pulled from a multitude of different labels and matched a mood or theme. The compilation that most people in rock consider started the ball rolling was the Nuggets set that came out on Elektra records in 1972 and was compiled by Lenny Kaye. For those that are not familiar, Nuggets collected mostly one hit wonder type records culled from the great American Garage Band era of the mid to late sixties. The influence of this set of tunes on the following generations cannot be underestimated. The track listing became a map reference for young bands and record hounds that came after looking for something different from the mainstream stadium rock and stodgy prog that was the norm at the time in the seventies.

The set contained bands that were obscure to many but are now household names amongst collectors and those in the scene. It inspired legions of folks to look for these old records and also inspired a whole industry of curated compilations to follow. To name a few, you had Nuggets, then Pebbles, followed by Rubble, Boulders, Chocolate Soup, Perfumed Garden, Calico Wall, Back To The Grave, Teenage Shutdown, Garage Punk Unknowns and on and on and on. These were just the ones focusing on sixties garage and psych. By the eighties and then nineties and the CD era, there were hundreds of different series coming out. The focus shifted to other areas of collecting. There were comps on rare soul and funk, on heavy psych, acid folk, library recordings, International groups, you name it. In the pre-internet era these items were essential. They were the Wikipedia in your record store. The place where you received your homework and next assignment. Signposts and instructions given on where to go digging next. Also, not for nothing, they were the only place where you could hear most of these tunes and afford to do so. Comps offered you the chance to have on wax tunes that might set you back a small fortune to own on vinyl if you could ever find them. They also offered the chance to hear unreleased or different versions of tunes too, as compilers got access to lost tapes and masters.

Since the Doo Wop days there has been a bootleg market for rare and obscure singles and compilations were no exception. Obtaining rights and finding out true ownership of songs was not always top of the list for some collections. Also getting master tapes to produce the comp was also nigh on impossible in most cases, so quality levels varied from comp to comp and often from tune to tune within the same collection. Often records were mastered from original vinyl records, the only source available. Depending on who was doing it and the equipment they used, these could sound decent or not so much. Sometimes you would hear the defects from the original record used, pops, clicks etc. Up to that point though, these were the only ways that the greater record buying public could listen to a lot of these tunes.

Going into a record store during the eighties and nineties was a real adventure every time you flicked through the comp section. First off, the covers on most were excellent and through the right use of imagery suggested the type of music held within. They made it all look so exciting and interesting. At once you wanted to buy even if you had never heard of the groups and records. If there was a series that you had been buying before, you were hooked on getting the next installment. Pebbles nine? Sure, hit me with it. Rubble thirteen? Of course, I need that. Acid Dreams? You bet.

I also believe that without all these compilations many scenes might not have survived very long or even have got started. They helped fuel the Garage/Mod/Psych/Soul scenes without doubt. Making newly discovered tunes known to DJs to spin at the next event and making sure that the audience isn’t listening to the same old songs week in week out. Scenes got larger and have endured because once the flood gates were open and so much “new” old music kept getting discovered, it meant things stayed fresh and appealing and continued to draw in a new audience.

For my pick this week I would recommend the aforementioned Nuggets set and the subsequent releases under that umbrella and, as luck would have it, there has been a recent reissue of it and we have copies available. For a more UK slant, the Rubbles series are excellent too. Anything from the Back From The Grave series or Pebbles for more US garage and psych. Of course, for punk, the Killed By Death series should be familiar to readers here, plenty of those to get into. It really is endless.

Something that I pulled from our compilation section recently was one called Zapped. It’s an official release on Bizarre/Warners/Reprise that contains records that were written by, produced by, played by or involved Frank Zappa. It’s pretty ace and contains cuts from albums that are even today still hard to score. Stuff from Captain Beefheart, Alice Cooper, Jeff Simmons, The GTOs, Lord Buckley, Wild Man Fischer, Tim Buckley and ending with Zappa himself and the stone-cold groove of Willie The Pimp from Hot Rats. Excellent.

You can find a copy of this comp pretty easily and cheaply compared to finding the original albums, and the thing is official, so it sounds great.

Happy digging folks. Get into some comps and expand your record collection quickly, easily and somewhat less expensively. Until next time-Dom.

Staff Picks: Usman

A lot of bands play blown out d-beat raw punk... while I have a definite soft spot for “d-beat” bands, a lot of the shit I hear is just boring to me. But fuck man, that is not the case with Hellish Inferno. At all. Yeah, the riffs are straight-forward, nothing super catchy here, but they execute the songs with straight up raw power. They lay down 4 tracks on this tape of pummeling HC insanity, all in less than 4.5 minutes. Only 50 tapes were made on the first run thinking no one would give a shit, but of course those tapes were quickly distributed cos this shit rules. As I write this, we only have 4 left in stock at the shop. There is a label doing another run of tapes, so if you miss out on these don’t worry - there’s more coming soon! Check it out! Oh, it’s snowing in Raleigh, that never happens! ‘Til next time...


https://hellishinfernopunx.bandcamp.com/releases

Staff Picks: Rachel

Jeff Wayne’s Musical Version of War of the Worlds

This record has been sitting in the bargain bin for weeks and it inspired me to write about it because I do not know how it’s still there! If you’ve never heard this record, you’re in for a treat. Hopefully someone has already snagged our $5 copy because it deserves a good home. It’s War of the Worlds as a synthy and ridiculous rock opera. Literally, nothing better. It’s such a cinematic cheese fest, and it was this dude’s FIRST release. Jeff Wayne later made commercial jingles and a musical version of Spartacus.

I picked this up in a collection I adopted a few years ago. I had no idea what it was and couldn’t resist putting on something with that cover. I was definitely surprised, but ate it up and played the whole thing a few times over. Basically, it’s a dramatic retelling of the classic Orson Welles’ War of the Worlds with some crazy additions as the aliens take over the planet.

Life has been stupid crazy with moving and dealing with new house issues, so I don’t have the capacity to go crazy in depth about this release. All I can say is you should listen to it and BUY IT when you see it in a store. It seems fairly easy to come by and if you can get one with the booklet insert, you’ll have the treat of beautiful illustrations of the crazy plot. I hope our copy has left the bins and delighted someone as much as it has delighted me over the years.


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