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Staff Picks: November 5, 2020

Staff Picks: Daniel

Various: Michigan Brand Nuggets 12” (Belvedere Records)

I picked up this double LP compilation a few weeks ago, and it’s been in constant rotation ever since. Having discovered Bob Seger’s early work a few months ago, one big thing that drew me to this record was the note on the cover that says “fortified with 7 very rare Bob Seger songs.” While I tracked down a copy of the Bob Seger System’s Ramblin’ Gamblin’ Man album, I was still lacking many of his killer early singles on vinyl and Michigan Brand Nuggets fills several gaps. I’m stoked to have tracks like “East Side Story” and “Heavy Music Part 2” on vinyl, but this record offers way more than that.

Besides Bob Seger, Michigan Nuggets also features rare tracks by the MC5, Question Mark and the Mysterians, and the Amboy Dukes (but not the Stooges, despite Iggy being on the cover). What you get here are the tracks you’d be most interested in if you’re a fan of Nuggets style garage rock, and every track is a scorcher. The biggest revelation to me was the rare single versions of tracks by the MC5. This version of “Looking at You” from their 1968 single on A-Square Records is the rawest, most blown-out recording on this entire record, and it just shreds. The guitars are cascading sheets of noise, reminding me of the very best Les Rallizes Denudes recordings I’ve heard. The MC5’s debut single, “I Can Only Give You Everything,” also appears here, and it’s a song most anyone into 60s music will know, but the MC5 imbue it with their raw power here. Hearing these tracks has also led me to spend time with the MC5’s Babes in Arms record (originally released on ROIR), which showcases this side of the band much better than any of their actual albums.

As befitting a record with the Nuggets brand name, this double LP is full of obscure tracks from groups I’ve never heard. Detroit’s rock scene is legendary so it’s unsurprising there are so many killer deep cuts, but one thing that sticks out to me as a common thread is the influence of Motown on these rock bands. Great bass lines and raw, soulful vocals are all over this record, and it makes plain how integral the whole Motown scene was to the emerging heavy rock scene that would ultimately birth punk.

While the collection peters out at the end of side four with a couple of Bob Seger’s novelty records that aren’t my cup of tea, on the whole it plays like a killer mix tape. Further, the detailed liner notes offer context and anecdotes about every single track. If you’re itching to pick this one up, it looks like there are many copies available on Discogs for prices that aren’t terrible. Or if, like me, you happen across it in a used bin, it’s worth grabbing as it’s a cut well above your bog-standard comp of 60s obscurities.

Staff Picks: Jeff

While I personally think that Italy produced some of the best hardcore bands during the 1980s, Link Lärm is one of those bands that I had little-to-no awareness of. But man, after hearing this LP entitled Troppo Presto... ...O Troppo Tardi? that compiles the band’s only 2 recording sessions, I gotta say this band is right up my alley. The A-side of the record I believe contains the band’s contribution to Sutura Eterna, an Italian punk compilation released in 1986, but I think some of the tracks are previously unreleased from that same recording session. The B-side, much rawer in production, is the band’s 1984 demo tape. While both recording sessions have their charm, this LP is worth it for the 7 songs on the A-side alone.

Initially, Link Lärm stands out to me as being pretty melodic. There are moments where the wonky guitar work, mixed with the quirky, angular rhythms of the drums and the tuneful vocals, almost reminds me of Articles of Faith, particularly a track of theirs like “I’ve Got Mine”. Link Lärm does launch into some totally ripping fast parts, and while they are intense and chaotic, maybe they are a tad more calculated and less off the rails than say... Wretched. The big highlight and stand-out track for me is “Senatore.” It really showcases the charisma and personality of the vocalist. This track makes me imagine that at a live gig this dude would be quite the character. It’s a more mid-paced song, and when it launches into the big chorus with gang vocal type chants, it makes me want to scream along like I know the words and I don’t even know any Italian! Link Lärm has such a cool blend of off-kilter melodicism and raging intensity. So glad I got to discover this band through this reissue.

No Plan Records released this platter in super limited quantities, only 200 copies on black vinyl worldwide. We only got a handful, but I think there’s still a few of these collection LPs available from Sorry State. Gitchu one, punk.

Thanks for reading,
-Jeff

Staff Picks: Eric

Bad Breeding: Exiled 12" (Iron Lung Records)

I feel like I’m always a little behind the curve when it comes new music. We had this record in the store last year for so long and I listened to it once or twice but I guess it never did it for me. Daniel praised it and it was generally liked by everyone in the shop, but here I am over a year later in my room jamming this record and I’m kicking myself for not seeing the light sooner.

Let the record show that I did see them play in Raleigh last year and they were hands down the best set I had seen all year, but I still had this idea in my head that it wasn’t the same on wax.

The phrase that comes to mind as I listen is: controlled chaos. Sonically it just keeps pounding and making sudden, unexpected changes but it never falls apart. I’m having a hard time finding something to compare it to. It’s blazing fast, but also a bit experimental and droney at times. It takes influence from Anarcho punk and other extreme English punk groups but Bad Breeding are their own monster.

The lyrical content and artistic message is nothing short of sophisticated political attack. From class/wealth inequality to war to the police, Bad Breeding takes on these topics in a way that isn’t played out or contrived. I’d argue Bad Breeding is one of the most unique, genuine and awe inspiring bands in the landscape of contemporary hardcore punk. Do yourself a favor and give it a spin.

Staff Picks: Dominic

Hello friends. As I write this week’s newsletter inclusion, the election here in America is still undecided and a closer race than it should be. It will likely be decided by the time you are reading this. I didn’t get to vote as I am still not a citizen of the United States. I do get to pay taxes though. The irony there is not lost on me. Taxes without representation was something that caused some tea to be dumped in to a harbor some years ago wasn’t it? Anyway, I will hopefully be a citizen for the mid-terms. The last time I voted in an election was in Britain back in the 80’s and my only time. I was at college and in the Student Union, not quite a character from The Young Ones but certainly becoming more politically aware as a young adult. Years previously as a kid I found a lot of “news” from records and would take cues from songs or the artists I liked. I can honestly say that my love of music definitely shaped who I am as a person and what I believe in.

There are tons of names I could list that have influenced me over the years. Growing up in the 70’s and early 80’s I was exposed to a lot of different music styles and youth cultures. Things were pretty tribal back then but it was the Two-Tone movement that seemed to be the most vital and on point politically and socially to my young developing mind. I wasn’t even a skin or rude boy but more a rockabilly back then and realizing that strict codes of tribal divide weren’t for me and that if the music was this good it didn’t matter what cult you came from. The Two-Tone groups balanced politics with pop music superbly and none more so than The Specials. They were just the best. I am sure you don’t need me to tell you that.

So, for this week my pick is their 1981 single Ghost Town and it’s flip Why? Both of these songs touched me from the very first time I heard them and still hold their worth forty years later. In this current culture of cruelty, the lyrics to Why? seem just as apt now as they did back then. The tune also featured on a Record Store Day special 10 inch as a dub track recently which ear-wormed me and had me reaching for my Specials records. Ghost Town is still the sleeper protest song it always has been. Various writers have gone into the power and beauty of this classic over the years and the many layers of reference and meaning contained within. Definitely search the internet for some of these essays where they get into more depth if you are interested. Released in a time of recession and riots, this was the group's last single before breaking up and reforming as the Special AKA and was written by founding member Jerry Dammers. It stayed in the charts for weeks and was number one for three of them. Helped along by a video that featured the band driving around empty streets in a Vauxhall Cresta. Classic. The tune sounds just as fresh today.

It was the B-side track Why? that I was looking for the other day, as its words were echoing around my mind. I pulled out my 12” single version and remembered that in addition to having the tracks Why? and Friday Night Saturday Morning, another classic observation on British life along the lines of That’s Entertainment by The Jam, it had the extended version of Ghost Town on it. Brilliant. I’ll leave links to all three tracks so that you can refresh your memories and enjoy them. Do please pay attention to some of the lyrics. It’s sad that we are still fighting Nazis in 2020 but hopefully the right step was taken on Tuesday. “The people getting angry”

Good luck everyone. Until next week, ta-ra – Dom





Staff Picks: Usman

Mess - Get Into A Mess (1986) King's World Records

This record is insane. The intro gets me excited every time, no matter what I am doing. That scream at the beginning... it's perfect. Its weird how good (but awesome) this EP is yet you can still find copies for like $12 if you're patient. I remember the first time I heard it, the intro had me hooked right in and I was hoping so much I would love what followed cos with an intro like that you can really go any direction after. The flexi is 4 tracks total, and when I listen to it I never want it to be over. The songs are written in this really dynamic way, a way that compels me to listen so closely to whats happening. The songs have a general sense of urgency, but the drummer keeps everything locked right in. The songs are anthemic as fuck, kind of reminiscent of The Stalin. A lot of the riffs bounce around in the catchiest way but with no cheese, if you know what I mean. When the vocalist is singing, its rampant and nonstop - I think this element reminds me a lot of The Stalin, too. The vocals carry the songs a lot, along with the drums playing right on top of the beat. The B side starts with He That's Down Need Fear No Fall. The song has a slow trudgey beginning that goes into these fucked up guitar leads that are followed by a series of punches, but man the punches are carrying so much motion behind them it makes me want to fucking explode. I don't know how they do it. That's what I meant by dynamic song writing. Often times when a band write songs that have lots of tempo changes it throws me off too much, but Mess manages to incorporate different tempos into one song, while maintaining an overall driving feeling. Interesting note on this song; every digital rip i've heard, and every copy i've heard (which is 3 different discs, I think) has a weird scratch sound in the same exact place. So either the master tape had some type of deterioration or something, or there was a pressing defect.

King's World Records was based in Fukuoka, Japan. They have released material from many bands since 1986. Some of my favorites include Swankys/Gai, Kuro, and Confuse. Their debut release was a flexi-disc from Swanky's, Rock 'N Roll History Fuck Off, who were also from the same city as King's World Records. This EP is pretty cool, the guitar tone sounds pretty similar to the guitar on the Mess flexi to me, but I did always prefer Gai releases over the Swanky's. I believe Get Into A Mess was the following release on King's World Records (according to the catalogue number) but i'm not positive. I'm also not sure where Mess was from but I do know the recording session on this flexi was in Fukuoka as well. The two releases that followed were recorded in Tokyo, which is pretty far from Fukuoka.

I heard first heard Mess on their ±9 CD. My friend Osamu gave the CD to me. That's why I decided to write about Mess today. Osamu was a cool ass dude. He could be pretty quiet but when I got to know him we would nerd out together about records, namely Japanese records. He was Japanese. I don't think he ever lived there but I know he would visit every now and again. He shared a lot of cool flyers, zines, records, etc with me that he had collected from his visits. I always appreciated his generosity and just genuine common interest, and I did my best to share with others what he would share with me. It's a painful shame that he is no longer with us. He will be desperately missed in the Raleigh scene. It's so sad he is gone. He was an excellent musician, and visual artist even. He played bass in No Love, Daniel's band. I'm sure he played in other bands before I moved here that I just don't know about. He was a nerd like I said, and I know enjoyed making "fan fiction" of bands he enjoyed. It deeply warmed my heart the night he showed up to my house with "fan fiction" he created for my old band Drugcharge. It looked so fucking cool too..I used the art on some tour tapes. The last time we spoke I had just got a copy of The Stalin's Stop Jap, and I was sending him photos - mainly of the insert with the lyrics to the song Stop Jap itself. I had always wondered that they meant by the phrase, cos to me that word is slur. Some punks use that word to describe Japanese HC, I cannot understand why they can't simply say the entire word. Have they forgotten Hiroshima? Nagasaki? The Great Tokyo Airhead of March 1945? How about the fucking Japanese interment camps in the United States??? Anyway, the song... he told me told me the lyrics were "very contextual to the times, and seems to be anti-nationalism." I think he asked his dad to translate them, who I have never met. So maybe they used the word in response to the slur being developed? Or, in Japan maybe they have had a different relationship with this word since before the Americans used it as a slur during World War II. He wrote me back a few hours later saying he was blasting The Stalin and writing Tam (ADK Records, G-Zet, Stalin) conspiracy fiction, haha. I wish I could read it. That was the last time we spoke. Rest in peace, my friend.

Staff Picks: Rachel

YOUTH AGAINST DRUGS- DAN MCCURDY

Ayyyy I’m Rachel and I just started working for Sorry State! I’ve been a customer and fan for a while and am stoked to join the team. I love a good, rare record in pristine condition like the rest of y’all, but what REALLY gets me excited about digging through bins is finding that weird oddball shit that tells you what the world was like when the record was pressed.

I was re-cataloging my collection and I had completely forgotten I picked this up on a trip to Dallas a while ago. Youth Against Drugs, by Dan McCurdy is from 1971 and I had never put it on my turntable until last week. I honestly had to listen to it like three times because I kept laughing. I love over the top anti drug advertising. And this is some of the most over the top music and dialog I’ve heard.

This album is the PERFECT relic of anti-hippie, terrified-of-free-love, ‘straight’ (as the record puts it) propaganda. Dramatic music, absurd descriptions of inebriation, and of course culminating in interviews with *gasp* actual drug users, this release uses every trick in the book to scare parents. Some of my favorite bits include McCurdy talking about ‘incense filled rooms’ and ‘running naked in the street’ as indications of drug use in kids.

Looking at it from a 2020 perspective, as someone who has been in the cannabis adjacent and cannabis industry since college, and with the context of the current election, I thought this record would be a great first foray into my collection of oddities. I’m not sure I can recommend this, both because I don’t want to get Daniel in trouble and because I haven’t found a recording of this online….but roll up some of the devil’s lettuce and give this piece a listen!

I look forward to sharing some of my weirder records and probably rambling way too long about some of the metal releases in my collection!


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