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Staff Picks: July 30, 2020

Staff Picks: Daniel

Various: Keats Rides a Harley 12” (Happy Squid Records)

Last Saturday I was sitting on the couch, scrolling away on my phone and having a relaxing afternoon, when a picture of the Fuck-Ups’ FU82 popped up on a local shop’s Facebook feed (Sound Off Records & Hifi here in Raleigh, in case you’re wondering). I jumped in the car and nabbed that record for a good price, and I was very stoked because I’ve been looking for that one for a long time. I also bought a few other records that must have come in with the same collection, including a copy of Keats Rides a Harley, a 1981 compilation on Happy Squid Records, the label associated with the Urinals.

I’ve been aware of Keats Rides a Harley for many years, but I can’t remember if I’d ever listened to it. I can, however, assure you that it never hit me like it did this week. In fact, my Fuck-Ups EP hasn’t been getting nearly the attention it should because Keats has been monopolizing my turntable.

There are a few things I like about this record. First, the production is great. The recordings resemble what you hear on a lot of early California punk records like the Dangerhouse singles or the American Youth Report compilation, with all the instruments clear and present, but with the perfect amount of grit. It’s also super short and doesn’t wear out its welcome, much like Chunks or Cracks in the Sidewalk. I’m not sure why Californians loved short compilations, but I’m down. Finally, it’s just full of great tracks. The Gun Club song is awesome, the Meat Puppets turn in a scorcher from their early hardcore period, Toxic Shock sounds like a reject from the American Youth Report comp and the unknown S Squad serve up the record’s best song. And that’s just the a-side!

I also picked up a copy of Keats Rides a Harley’s unofficial sequel, Warf Cat Tales, and it’s also excellent, though it’s not as punk and the artwork’s Dick Tracy vibe hasn’t aged as well. The recordings are still raw, though, and the mix of bands is eclectic but very strong. cordings are still quite raw, though, and the mix of bands is eclectic but very strong.

Staff Picks: Jeff

Stray Bullet: S/T 7” (Adult Crash)

New EP from this band out of Sheffield, UK. I’m not exactly sure if this band shares members with Rat Cage, but if not, they surely are part of the same scene because I hear a lot of similarities. To me, what distinguishes Stray Bullet is that stylistically they sound a little less mangel/Swedish hardcore influenced, and instead sound more on the US hardcore side of things. I can only hope that the band’s namesake is an Out Cold reference. I don’t know why, but the singer has this shredded vocal approach, which does seem to fall somewhere audibly between Mark and Kevin. When you drop the needle on the first cut off this EP, the first few punches of guitar chords grab your attention just before everything drops out except for drums, which rage at a barreling pace not unlike the break in “Cult Band”. Then this thing just takes off. One earworm riff after another washes over you before you’re able to get a grasp on the songs, which immediately demands repeated listens. One thing I think Stray Bullet does really well, which I personally think is hard to pull off tastefully, is the insertion of catchy and dancey mid-paced sections. They manage to work these parts into their songs without it feeling like a stupid and unnecessary “mosh part”. Is this band recreating the wheel? Not really, but I do feel like they are surgical in making all the right moves to achieve a killer hardcore song.

Not to harp on Out Cold too much, but if you’ve never checked out their No Eye Contact EP from 1998, you should definitely check it out. “Stray Bullet” is the first track. Give it a listen ya dummie!

Thanks for reading,

Staff Picks: Dominic

Hey there music lovers. Are you surviving? Another mad week and just about the only thing that makes sense is music. This week I’m going back to the tail end of the 60’s for some obscure garage and psychedelic music and a little bit of tongue in cheek humor from the UK.
C.A. Quintet: Trip Thru Hell. Candyfloss records. 1969

First up a very rare record put out by a garage band from Minneapolis. This record, like most of their ilk, barely sold on its initial release and the band were never heard of again. In fact, the band were only really known in their local area. In a typical tale, their record gained popularity a good dozen plus years later with collectors and lovers of psychedelic music. Original copies soon commanded four figures. Thankfully a decent reissue came out in the 90s through Sundazed Music and now in the internet era the music can be heard through your computer. We did manage to stock a more recent reissue here at Sorry State and have it available.

There is so much that appeals about this record. The title and cover for starters. Artist Rod Eaton certainly came up with an image and feel that lets you know that this might not be your typical pop record. Musically it is a concept piece of sorts and quite accomplished for a young band. Instrument wise, it’s the usual guitar, bass, organ and drum set up of most sixties garage bands but with clever percussion added, the odd mariachi trumpet, sound effects and a haunting female vocal that is used for the main theme and which is repeated at several points through the record. When I first listened to the title track I thought I was hearing a lost Morricone Spaghetti Western soundtrack. It definitely sounds like something Tarantino might use for one of his films. It’s an epic nine plus minute track that slowly builds with the hypnotic vocal and music getting more and more intense as we take our trip thru hell and even features a phased drum solo that doesn’t actually suck.  

The mariachi trumpet features through second track Colorado Mourning and reminds me a little bit of Arthur Lee and Love. Spooky organ ushers in third track Cold Spider and the west coast Love vibes continue albeit with another twisted guitar solo. The remainder of the album continues in a similar vein and ends as it began with the second part to Trip Thru Hell. The record is just around thirty minutes and doesn’t out stay it’s welcome. There is now some interesting information available on the internet about the record and hopefully I have piqued your interest to go investigate.

The Head Shop: S/T. Epic. 1969

Another American record from ’69 and this time from a group out of New York that received the patronage of famous sixties producer and fashion icon Milan aka The Leather Boy. It was through his involvement that this unknown band were able to put out a psyche record on major label Epic. The album is really a psychploitation record. It definitely was trying to appeal to hip, turned on listeners but also throws in some covers to try and grab the casual buyer. The covers being a phased and trippy version of Sunny with some pretty good acid guitar and two (sigh) Beatles songs. However, the first, Yesterday, is worked into a longer Zappa like number and is tolerable and the second, Revolution, is a good song to begin with and the Head Shop version is full on acid guitar overload with bongos and you know that’s alright. Other highlights are the title track which sets their stall up as track one and the song I Feel Love Comin’ On which features guitar hero Larry Coryell playing. Throughout the record there are stereo effects and lashings of fuzz bass and distorted guitar, some tasteful Hammond organ and soulful vocals and some other nice touches. For an underground record, it’s pretty good and still has an accessible sound despite some of the weirder moments such as on the track Prophecy which employs a heavenly mix of choral vocals, church bell and harp among other things. Final track comes on almost like Steppenwolf until it disappears into a collage of electronic noise and keyboard sounds. Cool record, interesting story, expensive as an original, available here as a reissue.
Lastly, a quick bit of comic relief from England. The 1967 film Bedazzled starring Peter Cook and Dudley Moore was on TV the other day. It’s a great humorous take on the Faust tale with Cook playing the devil and granting wishes to Moore’s character. One scene has Moore wishing he was a pop star and after he sings his big number dressed in gold lame to the screaming girls, he is upstaged by Cook (as the devil) who comes on and sings his number and steals the show. The soundtrack was composed by Moore, an accomplished jazz musician, and the title track is a great pop-psych track that seems an appropriate way to end things this week. Enjoy.

Staff Picks: Ava

Hiroshi Yoshimura: Soundscape 1: Surround (1986)

Hiroshi has been my go-to artist these last few months during a few big life changes I've had to endure, especially being a go-to falling asleep soundtrack. Soundscape 1: Surround has a way of alleviating these stresses I've been dealing with that I can't find in many other albums. His minimalist electronic themes are so easy to be whisked away in and become lost in the soft melodies. "In addition to solo performance and improvisational music, he made music for galleries, museums, building spaces and train stations." Yoshimura was a pioneer of Japanese ambient and minimalist electronic all throughout the 80's and early 90's. in 1986, the Misawa corporation hired Yoshimura to "provide something their own products were missing. Given out with every prefab home was Yoshimura's spellbinding Soundscape 1: Surround, an album of music that was meant to provide a foreground to a lot of something you might be missing." (Diego Olivas, October 12, 2016). I've never heard of an album given out with prefab homes to solely experience in that specific space. If you are a fan of anything at all ambient, Minimal Synth, or Environmental-Electronic, you should totally give this a listen.

Staff Picks: Usman

It’s funny I was thinking for a few days what record recently came out that I found compelling enough to write about here in the newsletter. I'm not sure how many people even read the shit I write here, but I still feel like its privilege to write record reviews in the Sorry State Newsletter. So I want to truly put effort into what I say here. Hopefully that will still be the case in a few years (unless Daniel’s fired my weed smokin’ ass by then).

Anyway, the Staff Pick idea hit me after we had packed up dozens of the Totalitär Heydays Revisited EP. How did think I not think of this before? I've been awaiting this release for a minute! I was getting antsy as I saw distros all over the States get their copies, as we still awaited ours. Seriously not hating on how long post takes right now. I am truly grateful the mail is still even moving, especially internationally. And, you can still mail a handful of records for less than $5. If you don't give your post carrier lil’ gifts around the holidays you should truly consider this, given that you buy records through the mail, I guess. Anyway, as I awaited their arrival I even watched some video on Youtube a few times of somebody filming their turntable with a smart phone as they played the first song on the EP. I was dying to know what the tracks would sound like. But then one day a big La Vida box arrived at Sorry State that included a single copy, destined to some lucky person in the States! Naturally Jeff and I played that mug IMMEDIATELY. (Thanks to whoever's disc that was by the way!!) If you didn’t hear it, the quality of the bonus 7" from the 1986-1989 compilation LP was kind of a letdown. But what could I really expect for something that was described as bonus disc of rehearsal takes? That's not the case here with the Heydays Revisited EP. On top of that, it is so cool to hear different recordings of songs I know and love, and even an "alternate" version too!! When I heard the “preview track” on Youtube I was already trying to figure out what session these songs would be from. I predicted they were from the same session as the Luftslott EP or maybe from the sessions of those random two songs they tack onto the end of Sin Egen Motståndare LP. But it’s neither. It is from sessions recorded around the same time, in the same studio, and mixed by the same person, haha. But these are tracks that have never seen the light of day! So cool! The back cover gives a brief history of the band at the time and where the recordings came from. This release was very well done, and I am so happy there are so many copies in circulation for everyone all over the world to enjoy. When this release was first planned I’m pretty sure it was set for only 500 copies, but after so much awareness and want for the EP the quantity pressed in the end was 4 times that. Record “collecting” is fun but it can be kind of a dirty game. Most of my Totalitär records I bought about ten years ago for fair prices, punk prices. But as time goes on there are always more people turned onto bands, the internet hype, blah blah blah; so it’s good to see this many copies of this EP in circulation so everyone can get a chance! Cheers Flox!! Also heads up to readers, Prank Records has a repress on the way of Sin Egen Motståndare! When I very first heard a Totalitär EP I was instantly obsessed (which I think was actually not an EP but a split with Dropdead). It was like Discharge but it ripped instead of pounded, if that makes sense. I bought any Totalitär record I could after that. Totalitär is one the greatest bands, in my opinion. Their first release was in 1987, although they were on many compilation tapes in 1986 (including an appearance under the name Anti-System before they were Totalitär. I believe the name comes from a Fanzine they did at the time). Since 1986, they had more or less consistently released records for 20 years. Every single record they released is worth the listen. This band has no filler, no dull moments. There is not a single moment I want to miss. It never gets old, just like the Discharge EPs. Don't ask me what my favorite Totalitär record is; they are all my favorite. I'm not kidding. Do you know any bands that have released compelling hardcore records for over 20 years? Most of the time when a band is around that long they’ve changed out so many members that it is barely even the same songwriters, or they’re all burnt out need to stop milking their name. That’s not the case with Totalitär. I once met the vocalist Poffen at the Dissekerad show in Richmond and I made a complete fool of myself, cos I pretty much just tried to say to him what I have just wrote here. Fuck it, I mean what I say. No shame. They are legends. Anyway, til next week… please, take care y'all and thanks for taking the time to read what I have wrote.

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