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Staff Picks: March 4 2021

Staff Picks: Daniel

Lora Logic: Pedigree Charm 12” (Rough Trade; 1982)

Pardon me while I give a bit of deep biographical context here. In the early 2000s, when I was in my early 20s, the website Kill from the Heart went online and changed my world and my taste in music. Before that, I had a few hardcore records that I loved, but Kill from the Heart—along with compilations like P.E.A.C.E., Party or Go Home, and Welcome to 1984—schooled me on how these records were part of a worldwide movement, one that I’ve continued to research, learn about, and take part in for the past two decades. However, the habits that sent me down the hardcore rabbit hole developed earlier in my life; they just had different objects.

Before I went down that rabbit hole, I spent a lot of time researching first wave punk, because I loved that music too and, at that time, it was much better documented and easier to research in mass media. Whenever I would gain access to a new database, the first thing I would do was search the word “punk.” I remember in my high school, before they connected it to the internet, there was a ProQuest research station. It sounds silly and primitive now, but there was a workstation that had an index of articles on its hard disk. So, I would search (for the word “punk”), and then there were these giant spinning towers of CDs. The search results would tell me what CD to pull from the towers and load into the computer, and then the system would access that article and allow me to read and print it, sort of like a digital version of the microfiche machines in libraries. Then I’d go to the next article in the search results and have to pull a different CD, load it, etc. I remember downloading articles about Vivienne Westwood in fashion magazines, stuff about the Sex Pistols’ first reunion tour in 1996, and a lot of stuff about Nirvana. These things helped me navigate what to buy with my limited budget, since there were no older punks in my town to show me the way.

Then later in the 90s, when I was in college, punk hit its 20th anniversary and there was a wave of media attention. The music section at mainstream bookstores like Barnes and Noble now contained several books on punk, and I read them all. The most pivotal was Jon Savage’s tome England’s Dreaming. I remember reading the book the summer before I went overseas for the first time (to England and Australia), and the timing couldn’t have been better. I gobbled up singles and albums by the groups I read about in England’s Dreaming, most of them dirt cheap. I came back from that trip with several hundred records, which I then spent the next few years digesting. This is also around the time eBay came on the scene, allowing me to fill in gaps in my collection and connect even more dots. Eventually I had a pretty sizable collection and a lot of knowledge about first and second-wave punk and post-punk, particularly from the UK. I loved the Pistols and the Clash, but bands like the Ruts, Cockney Rejects, the Buzzcocks, the Dickies, Wire, Stiff Little Fingers, the Fall, Discharge, Joy Division, and many others emerged as all-time favorites. To this day, the music of this era feels like home to me, and it’s what I put on when the sun is shining outside or when I get in the car for an exciting road trip.

I was still on that part of my journey when, in 2003, Kill Rock Stars put out a double CD collection by Essential Logic called Fanfare in the Garden. The CD got some press on its release (my research this morning revealed a Greil Marcus review in The Guardian), and Lora Logic was already on my radar because she was the saxophonist on X-Ray Spex’s early singles (though she was edged out of the group by the time they recorded their album). However, when I picked up a copy of Fanfare in the Garden, I was not into it. Part of it might have been that the “double CD discography” thing that happened so much during the CD era just wasn’t a listener friendly format. Lora Logic’s music is challenging, and even the best music wears on you after 2+ hours of listening. So, I relegated Essential Logic to the “not good” pile and probably passed on a lot of their records in subsequent years.

(Side note: I remember buying a double-disc compilation by the Saints called Wild About You 1976-1978 - Complete Studio Recordings on that same trip. This release—a treasure trove of great punk rock—suffered from that same sense of listener fatigue. I remember not liking the Saints’ 3rd LP, Prehistoric Sounds, because it was at the end of that collection and I was just tired of listening to the Saints after two straight hours. Eventually I picked up a vinyl copy of Prehistoric Sounds and now I ride hard for it. Wild About You also committed the criminal sin of putting 2/3 of Eternally Yours at the end of disc 1 and the last few tracks on disc 2… what were these people thinking?)

Then, in the early 2010s, I got a copy of Wanna Buy a Bridge?, Rough Trade’s 1980 sampler LP. I listened to that LP all the time because, while it was mostly songs I already knew and even owned the original singles for, it was jam-packed with hits and fun to listen to. Essential Logic’s 1978 single “Aerosol Burns” appears on that compilation, and I grew to love it. Eventually I picked up a copy of the single too.

The next step on my Lora Logic journey was a few weeks ago, when I watched the 1983 film Born in Flames (which I wrote about in my staff pick in January. That movie, which I loved, had a title song by the Red Crayola on which Lora Logic sang, and I loved the track too. So Lora Logic was already on my mind, then I read a brief mention of Lora Logic’s 1982 solo LP, Pedigree Charm, in a book. I sampled it online and ordered a copy on Discogs, which cost $15. Since it arrived I’ve been listening to it a lot and I like it. Pedigree Charm (minus one track) is actually compiled on the Fanfare in the Garden collection I mentioned above, so I heard all this music 20 years ago. But what I brushed off as “not punk” back then now sounds like the punkest, most interesting music I’ve come across in a minute.

I can see why a cursory listen to to these tracks might not lead me to investigate further, because Pedigree Charm sounds like a product of the early 80s. While the playing is organic (there are synthesizers, but no drum machines and it doesn’t sound robotic), the sounds are clear, compressed, and tight, like a polished 80s studio recording. This is particularly true of the bass tone, which is full of the funk grooves and string popping that played such a big role in the post-Gang of Four musical landscape, but with a clean, compact tone that wouldn’t be out of place on a Phil Collins record.

The thing is, though, even if the production is sterile, the band plays with fire and passion. Most of the songs here are quite fast and the band plays hard, not sounding like bored session players, but skilled and engaged studio musicians. And then there’s Lora Logic’s contribution on vocals and saxophone, which would spice up even the most mundane backing tracks. People often comment on the sense of unrestrained joy that characterizes Lora Logic’s music, and that’s very much in effect here, but as both a saxophonist and a vocalist she has a Miles Davis-like way of deploying a simple melodic line that forces you to hear what all the other instruments are doing in a new way. I am infatuated with her sense of melody and now that I’ve discovered that I feel like I need to hear everything she ever played on.

As I was researching this morning, more of my picture of Lora Logic’s music came into focus. I learned that not only did she play in X-Ray Spex and record with Essential Logic, the Red Krayola, and as a solo artist, but she was also a prolific guest musician. She had a habit of working with cutting edge bands, playing on records by the Raincoats, Swell Maps, Scritti Politti, and Dennis Bovell. She even laid down some sax on Finnish punk band Kollaa Kestää’s debut LP, Jäähyväiset Aseille!

And thus one record bought leads to a dozen more on the want list.

Staff Picks: Jeff

What’s up Sorry Staters?

This week, I decided to write about the debut LP by Slant, a hardcore band based out of Seoul, South Korea. Hear me out as I try to make this point: based solely on the aesthetic, I thought I may not like this record. Whether or not most of us like to admit it, I think that presentation, and even the way the band members dress, can factor into how we judge punk and hardcore records. As goofy as it sounds, for me, if a punk record has artwork with like a skull (haha), and then when you flip the record over the band members are punk looking, I feel more inclined to check it out. It’s silly, the segregation of punk fashion has become like a meme now. Slant does appear to have a background in straight edge hardcore, so I expected there to be some parts of the music that are mosh-worthy—and really, I wasn’t too far off! AndI’d be lying to myself if I said I never indulged in tougher hardcore from this end of the spectrum. But, what was interesting to discover is that one member of Slant is also in Scumraid, who to me are a gnarly and noisy crasher crust type band. I sat there for a second and realized how cool that is. It made me think that maybe the scene in South Korea isn’t so concerned with fashion and that people who dress differently can still be in bands together and support each other… as opposed to here in the US where I feel like these things can divide people. Basically, what I’m getting at here is that while Slant may not fall into the exact category of punk or hardcore I usually like, it would’ve been a shame to miss out on hearing this LP because it’s great.

Now let’s talk about the music. More than anything, I think Slant makes hardcore with conviction. The band delivers hardcore that is real meat and potatoes, but I feel like it’s difficult for bands to stand out playing super direct hardcore unless you’re able to write great songs. On this LP, Slant nails the songwriting and each song is a fuckin’ banger. The execution is airtight. Nothing sounds out of place, and I mean that in the best way. Most importantly, the way the songs are arranged is super catchy and memorable. I’m pretty sure the drummer is a transplant from the Boston-area hardcore scene. I’m not sure if this dude is from Mass proper, but I hear some of that influence creeping into Slant’s sound. Slant doesn’t sound exactly like Out Cold or anything, but the drumming is Evicci-esque—super tight, punchy and lots of fancy kick drum work. I can also hear a UK82 influence. One of my favorite tracks in particular, “Violent Minds,” borderline sounds like a Savageheads song. Yeji, the singer, has a gnarly sounding voice like a little demon, but delivers these vocal parts that are super hooky. They’re almost anthemic, where it’s easy for me to imagine the crowd at Slant gig bogarting the mic for the band’s entire set. Aspects of the recording are modern-sounding, but no overly so. The production is thick and punchy, but gritty and organic. The guitar riffs cut through and are not overly compressed or distorted. It just sounds like the band was trying to make an intense but still clear and classic sounding record.

This LP is already sold out here at Sorry State and sold out from Iron Lung. Iron Lung is already working on a repress. I have a feeling when the pandemic finally ends this band will have an amazing tour when they come here to the US. I’m looking forward to that.

Thanks for reading,

-Jeff

Staff Picks: Dominic

Hi to you, the Sorry State gang. How are things this week for you? All good, I hope?

This past Monday was the Feast Of Saint David, the patron saint of Wales and I spent a couple of hours in the company of one of my DJ friends, Matt Pape, who hosted a Welsh special on his weekly show over on The Face Radio. His show is called Worldly and here is a link if you are interested: https://thefaceradio.com/archives/worldy-with-matt-pape-2110/

He featured many of my favorite bands and singers from Wales and in particular played a couple by the great Super Furry Animals, a band I associate with a lot of great memories.

My connection with Wales goes back to my childhood. My parents bought a timeshare in North Wales and for many years we would holiday there. So, from a young age, I was exposed firsthand to the legends of dragons and Camelot and also to the issues of preserving the language and culture. There are some parallels with French Quebec and the fight to keep the language taught in schools and used on signs etc. It’s not an easy language to learn—lots of consonants in a row. I think I can still recite the longest town name in Wales, which has fifty-eight characters. Just don’t ask me to spell it.

During the Brit Pop era of the 90s, my interest in bands from Wales grew. I was discovering new bands regularly. Labels like Ankst seemed to have a new one every week for a while. Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci and Super Furry Animals were my favorite, the latter especially, and I have followed them from almost the beginning, seeing them live numerous times. It was through them I was first made aware of Meic Stevens and his music. His records were very hard to find until the late 90s and early 00s when several reissues appeared on the market, which I duly snapped up.

Before the show began, we were talking, and I asked Matt whether he had anything by Meic Stevens as I had just been listening Outlander. Matt didn’t and so I thought perhaps this would be a good time to talk about this record for my pick this week.

Meic Stevens: Outlander. Warner Brothers Records. 1970

Meic Stevens is a Welsh folk singer who began his career in the early sixties and after being discovered by ex-Radio One DJ and now disgraced sex offender Jimmy Saville, put his first effort on to wax in 1965 for Decca Records. A session that included John Paul Jones as one of the studio musicians and producers. At this point in 1965 the folk boom was about to change, but you could still see names like Davy Graham, Paul Simon ,and Jackson C. Frank performing in Soho clubs. Stevens embraced the hectic Bohemian London scene and rubbed shoulders with anyone who was anyone on the scene and made lots of connections. Syd Barrett even spent the weekend at Meic’s Welsh cottage in 1969. That year Warner Brothers Records launched a new London office and was keen to sign new talent. This being the end of the sixties, the return to rural and country sounds was in vogue. Singer songwriters were the hip thing. Warners themselves had on their books already Van Morrison, Joni Mitchell, and Arlo Guthrie, among others. A five-album deal was struck, and the first result was the Outlander album. Sung almost entirely in English, it could have been much bigger had it been promoted properly. After this record came out, Meic continued being involved in the Welsh language music scene and recording for local labels. Warners were not too pleased and insisted he concentrate on recording in English for them. Faced with this ultimatum, Stevens walked away from the deal and went home. A brave artistic move and one that would prove huge for the burgeoning Welsh language rock scene and movement. Throughout the 70s he released several EPs and a couple of albums, cementing his reputation as one of Wales’ greatest song writers and performers.

Back to the Outlander album—its sinking into obscurity at the time makes scoring an original a tough task and an expensive one—but there are now reissues on the market and also reissues of some of his rare EPs and unreleased material. I’ve only seen an original once and picked up my version in the early 00s. If you read reviews, the first thing most reference is Bob Dylan. Sure, there are similarities, but to say Meic was the Welsh Dylan is a little lazy. All singer songwriters worldwide at this point in time couldn’t help being under Dylan’s influence just a little. There are a couple of tunes that conform to this notion, but the remainder is uniquely Meic Stevens, more of a taste of the Acid or Psychedelic Folk sound being made by more pioneering artists. Several tracks feature tabla and sitar and a couple have a more guitar heavy vibe. It’s these tracks that make the album stand out and perhaps one could wish that Meic leant into these more than the traditional folky strumming of those Dylanesque numbers, but that would be Monday morning quarterbacking decisions that were made over fifty years ago. I’m sure to some those straight acoustic folk numbers were more the real thing, but to us now in the post everything 21st Century it is the weirder and more up-tempo psychedelic stuff that appeals.

Opening track Rowena is worth the price of admission, as is side two’s Ghost Town. Elsewhere cuts like The Sailor And Madonna and Yorric, which feature the Indian tabla and sitar, add the exotic acid folk vibes to the listening experience. Between those tracks comes the straighter, 60s Dylan folky and western sounding tunes which, though not unenjoyable, already sound dated compared to the other tracks. Of course, depending on your taste, you may find these songs just as interesting and I’m not trying to say they are bad, just less adventurous.

As always with these recommendations, I encourage you to investigate further. I have only glossed over Meic Stevens and his career and music here. He is a legendary figure and Welsh hero. I’ve picked up some reissues of his Welsh language recordings and earlier 60s stuff like the album Gwymon from 1972. The Welsh language is a beautiful language to hear in song and not knowing what is being said can often be a good thing as even the best lyrics can get in the way of a song’s emotion and musicality. When Meic Stevens made these records, the Welsh language was fighting for survival as less than 20% of the population spoke it daily. Years later, Super Furry Animals continued the progress with their album Mwng which is also in Welsh and remains one of their best records. I can’t recommend that one enough.

Cool, I’ll leave links to a couple of Outlander tracks and hope some of you might dig them and feel inspired to check out more.

https://youtu.be/pR9qyM9PaY0 - Rowena

https://youtu.be/MK2TGZDPMo - The Sailor And Madonna

Until next time. Love you all- Dom

Staff Picks: Usman

I feel like it’s been a while since I wrote a Staff Pick that was really intentional. I’ve been so busy that I feel like I haven’t been able to slow down. So that’s what I’m trying to do here now. Like I always say, I doubt many people read what I write here. So thanks for reading. Above is a picture of a killer EP that I’ll talk a little bit about in a minute.

My label with Jeff, Bunker Punks Discs & Tapes, released two demo tapes a few weeks ago. A lot people grabbed ‘em; that’s fuckin sick. So many people grabbed a copy that I didn’t even get a personal copy of the Tizzi tape. Whoops! I “released” another tape at the same time... It sold way more copies than I expected too, and now I wish I made more. I love mixtapes—receiving them and making them. So this last mixtape I made, I made with an “audience” in mind rather than for a specific friend. I wanted a theme, and I wanted to do it right. There are so many killer records from so many countries... but of course I can only put discs I have onto a mixtape. I am obsessed with getting the best sound possible for cassettes. You can get amazing sounds on there, but so many people just pass off shit onto them. I get it though, especially when it’s a demo. I wanted my tape to sound like you were listening to an original disc. (There was one disc I used on there that was a bootleg haha, a good one though.) Anyway, thanks to anyone who grabbed one of the Norsk mixtapes! I hope you enjoy it and maybe hear some new bands.

Last weekend an idea struck me: a “competition” of killer records from all over the world. I thought it would be cool if it was records versus other records from the same country, and they battle until there is a reigning victor of the nation and then in the end there are international matches. Haha, it’s cheesy… but seems like a lot of fun, and also a nice way to show off a record or two. The competitions will take place once a week on the Sorry State instagram story. I hate the olympics, I hate patriotism, I hate nationalism. The only reason I think the records should face off with other records from the same country is cos they will typically have a similar vibe/sound. Anyway, I started off the competition with (legendary) Anti-Cimex: Victims of a Bombraid vs. Asocial: Det Bittra Slutet. In my mind, when speaking of the specific EP versus EP, this is no competition. Det Bittra Slutet (“The Bitter End”) slays. Now if the question was, “Yer house is on fire, which one do you grab?” my answer would be different, as Victims of the Bombraid goes for a bit more cheese in the wild... Asocial only had cassettes before this EP, while Cimex had two EPs, one being Raped Ass. Now if this were Raped Ass vs. Det Bittra Slutet (or probably any other Swedish EP), Raped Ass would win. But it’s not. Victims of a Bombraid and Det Bittra Slutet were both released in 1984, and they have very similar song writing. Cimex vocalist Jonsson is unfuckwithable; I don’t think there is an angrier vocalist. But the overall sound of Det Bittra Slutet is much nastier to me. The songs are faster, and there are more of them. I hold Victims of a Bombraid very close to me; I know the songs like the back of my hand, like most, which is why I think it won the poll on instagram. I was just surprised to see less than a dozen people vote for Asocial! If you don’t know this EP, check the link—it’s killer! For any listeners who don’t already know, Asocial and Svart Parad shared a bassist, Tompa.

And for the nerds, my copy in the photo has had a few owners before me. The first owner was Hakan, the drummer of Asocial. And the second owner was Göran, the vocalist of S.O.D. (Sound of Disaster). For the record, I do not know either of these dudes, haha.

Alright, thanks for reading. 'til next time...

Staff Picks: Rachel

The Womenfolk Song Project: The Work of the Women

I picked up this record because it looks like something out of a weird 1970s commune-turned-cult. I’m down for weird culty music so I bought it, not expecting much. For the first year or two I owned this record, it wasn’t even on Discogs. I can’t find any information about this album or the people who made it so, hey, maybe it was made by a cult.

When I opened up the record, not only was it in great condition, it also had a teacher’s guidebook in the gatefold. Every song on this album is about women’s rights and the guidebook has more in depth information about each song and some interesting discussion questions and resources. It’s from 1975; it’s not perfect, but I was surprised I didn’t have to squash this staff pick for some racism or transphobia lurking behind this feminist agenda. The pages hold some progressive views for 1970s feminism, including giving black women a voice and talking about breaking down gendered terms and ideas.

Maybe this record spoke to me because I’ve had to cut off yet another family member for having some ass fucking backwards views. Maybe it’s because the longer this pandemic goes on, the more obvious income inequality is for marginalized groups. Either way, this lil’ folky feminist record gave me a smile on a day where everything was making me angry, so I thought I’d share it in hopes someone else enjoys it. I’m going to put this record on one more time and pretend I’m running around some progressive feminist commune and not doing laundry (like I should be doing... not because I’m a woman but because I’m running out of clean clothes to wear. Oh the irony).


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