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Staff Picks: October 8, 2020

Staff Picks: Daniel

Legal Weapon: Death of Innocence LP (1982)

This week I’m writing about an underrated slab of early 80s California punk rock: Legal Weapon’s 1982 album Death of Innocence.

Legal Weapon formed in 1980, growing out of an earlier punk band called the Silencers (who are well worth checking out!), who themselves evolved from the Shock, whose single “This Generation’s on Vacation” record collectors know from Killed by Death #3. Vocalist Kat Arthur and guitarist Brian Hansen (the creative core of the band) knew their way around a tune from the very beginning. The Silencers had a UK punk edge that sounds like the Avengers, while Legal Weapon’s debut 12” EP toughens things up, giving it a grittier sound that would have fit perfectly on the Dangerhouse label. Speaking of which, that 12” EP, No Sorrow, featured Pat Bag from the Bags on bass, and it’s stupid rare. I’ve never seen a copy, though there’s one up for sale on Discogs right now for $495.

Fortunately Death of Innocence is easier to find. While the original is still a collectible record, there’s a 1991 reissue on XXX Records with slightly different (for the worse) artwork that shouldn’t be too hard to pick up, and it’s also available on streaming services. Even better, while No Sorrow is a cool record, Death of Innocence is Legal Weapon’s masterpiece.

Besides a phenomenal batch of songs, Death of Innocence has a secret weapon: Steve Soto on bass and Frank Agnew on guitar, both of them fresh off recording the Adolescents’ legendary first album. I don’t know how much the two contributed to the songs on the album, but Steve Soto’s brilliant, melodic bass playing is all over the record, and the whole thing has a confidence and power that is head and shoulders above No Sorrow. While the record’s most anthemic tracks like “War Babies,” “No Sorrow,” and “User” hearken back to the more UK-influenced style of the Silencers, Legal Weapon is just as powerful on slow burners like “Don’t Pretend” and “Death of Innocence.” “Don’t Pretend” in particular sounds like a close musical cousin of mid-paced Adolescents tracks like “Kids of the Black Hole” and “Democracy.”

Legal Weapon returned in 1983 with another LP, Your Weapon, and while there are some good tracks on it (particularly “Equalizer,” another anthem right up there with the Avengers’ best songs), overall it lacks the fire and focus of Death of Innocence. The album after that, 1985’s Interior Hearts, moves toward the hard rock popular on the Sunset Strip at the time. While I haven’t heard much after that, a quick perusal of their 2002 self-titled album shows them dabbling with a throwback punk sound, but with 90s-sounding production. Unfortunately, though, I’m not the person to provide an in-depth analysis of those records.

Staff Picks: Jeff

Tales of Terror: S/T 12” (1984)

I remember becoming aware of this record when I was a teenager and feeling captivated by the austere, but super rad cover photo. But then, I remember throwing it on and being totally disappointed by the opening track, which is a sloppy rendition of the old rock’n’roll standard “Hound Dog.” My listening didn’t venture much further into the LP before I had moved on. In more recent years, I don’t know if my teenage brain wasn’t ready or didn’t understand Tales of Terror yet, but the record’s really grown on me. Since working at Sorry State, maybe one or two copies have come through, but I never jumped on one. But now, I finally took my copy home and I just can’t stop listening to it. Even with their sloppy rock’n’roll undertones, it does seem like ToT is a bit tongue-in-cheek with this influence, especially when looking at titles like “Over Elvis Worship.” I get the impression that they were maybe even making fun of rockabillies at the time. Maybe there is a hint of rock’n’roll attitude, but between these bluesy numbers are some of the most powerful and intense hardcore tunes that I was clearly missing out on. A song like “Death Ryder” is like The Germs meets Bl’ast, but maybe even more youthful and explosive. Even in their slower moments, ToT evokes this feeling of danger and irreverence that really just bursts out of the speakers. Plus, there is absolutely shredding guitar work all over this LP. I know I tend to embellish when I’m hooked on something, but I feel like this a hugely overlooked album in the California hardcore timeline. Totally destructive.

Also, while not pure skate rock, Tales of Terror always was contextualized with skateboarding whenever I would hear about them. Shout out to my buddy Chris at Velted Regnub for recommending I check out the live footage. Here’s a clip paired nicely with some 80s skate footage:

Thanks for reading,
-Jeff

Staff Picks: Dominic

Hello to you all out there, wherever you are, and thanks for clicking on this week’s newsletter. It’s been another bonkers week, hasn’t it? And it’s still only half over. Another week of crazy news and WTF moments and another week of sad losses to the music world. I won’t pretend and say I was a huge fan of the band Van Halen, I don’t have all their records but I sure as fuck recognize the genius and skill of Eddie Van Halen and his passing is clearly a major loss for the world of music. The death of singer Johnny Nash is also very sad and he was someone that I did follow and have several of his records. His career lasted a good while and there are plenty of great cuts that he recorded over the years. I like some of his soul and r ’n b sides that he cut particularly those for the Argo and Chess labels. Check out him doing Love Ain’t Nothin’ for a good example. May these two heroes rest in peace.
 
This week I had some emotional conversations with my family back in England. I haven’t seen them for too many years now. The last time I was back home was unfortunately to attend my Dad’s funeral. My Mum has her own health problems now and is doing her best to stay safe, home alone and away from any chance of Covid-19. My sister told me that my nephew (my God son – his father passed when he was a baby) who has just started university had to go into quarantine with his entire flat/dorm as pretty much all of them tested positive. Initially we thought he had but thankfully he retested negative. Still it was a very tough phone call and being on the other side of the Atlantic doesn’t make it easier. It got me to thinking about how I ended up being this side of the pond. About how many times I have crossed that ocean either by sea or air and why I kept coming back to America and have stayed. Why I love America and am desperate to become a citizen despite the current state of affairs. It’s a difficult question to answer simply. I believe it came from my Father. He was fascinated with the States and actually emigrated here himself in the 1950’s after his National Service stint was over. He served in Egypt during the Suez Crisis. Along with my uncle, they sailed over on the Queen Mary. My uncle stayed and ended up moving to Canada where he remained but my dad after a few years returned back to England. About twenty years later he and mum brought myself and my sister back for two epic road trips. The first on the East coast and Southern states plus Canada and the second on the West coast, California up to Washington. These two trips cemented my own love for America. It’s hard to describe how different things were back then between England and America. It was for us kids as if we had left a monochrome world and been transported to a technicolor one. America in the 70’s was bigger, louder and just better to us in every way thinkable. On those trips, we travelled everywhere by Greyhound bus. Can you imagine that? My parents and two kids from England on a bus back then. The sights we saw and characters we met. Amazing. So many incredible memories but one that stuck with me was being in New York City Port Authority bus depot and being told not to walk too far as it was a “little dodgy” out there. This was summer of 1977, heat wave, blackouts and Summer of Sam. Port Authority and Times Square were a long way off from Giuliani and Disney. My sister and I liked to sit in those chairs that had a small television attached to them and would pump quarters in to them and watch. Remember back in Britain at the time we still only had three TV stations. Anyway, we were sitting there and witnessed cops running through the place chasing a dude and then shooting him. Mind blowing. It was like watching Kojak or any of the other TV cop shows that we loved. You’d think that an event like that would discourage a young boy from wanting to come back but I knew that I would return and less than twenty years later I was back and living in New York City.

My dad and I didn’t share too much leisure time together when we were home but we did enjoy watching American westerns and war movies and particularly the TV cop shows. He liked the aforementioned Kojak and The Rockford Files and we both loved Starsky And Hutch. The theme tune of that show was one of the best and so it is here that I eventually get to my staff picks. Finally, you say- I thank you for indulging me here. Initially for the first season of the show they had a theme by Lalo Schifrin which is killer and sounds more like the work he did for the Dirty Harry movies starring Clint Eastwood, very dramatic and a little dark. For the second season, they switched to a theme composed by jazz sax dude Tom Scott called Gotcha. This was probably the one most people remember. It’s funky and fresh and captures the seventies vibes a bit more than the Schifrin theme, which still had a late 60’s feel in places. Strangely for the third season they changed it again to a theme by Mark Snow. It’s still a good one. Finally, for season four they returned to the Gotcha theme by Tom Scott, although slightly updated and redone and in my opinion not quite as funky. It’s a pity, as I think the earlier version is the best and features less of the dreaded sax. Unfortunately, it’s only this later version that is available as a record. Someone needs to do a Record Store Day release that has those earlier themes and cues. It would be killer. I’ll leave links to them so that you can compare. Of note, for me at least, was that when I lived in NYC, my landlord drove a Ford Gran Torino car just like the one in the show. His wasn’t red with the white stripe but was two tone blue and beautiful. It was meant to be that I lived there and got to see that beast of an automobile every day.
 

Season One-Lalo Schifrin.


Season Two-Tom Scott.
 
Something that I do have as a record (albeit an unofficial release) is the soundtrack to the movie The Taking Of Pelham One Two Three from 1974. If there ever was a film that really captures the true spirit and feel of New York City and the one that I witnessed as a nine-year-old wide eyed little British kid back in ’77, it is this film. An absolute classic and with the mother of all action themed cop type soundtracks. Composed by David Shire who also wrote the music for All The President’s Men among his many credits. Younger readers may be aware of the horrible 2009 remake and possibly a made for TV version from 1998 but it’s the original that rules. So much so that Quentin Tarantino based a good part of his Reservoir Dogs on a major plot device of the original film. The ’74 version stars Robert Shaw, Walter Matthau and Hector Elizondo but also features Jerry Stiller and a great cameo from Doris Roberts as the mayor’s wife. I highly recommend you watch the film. The dialogue alone is priceless. Certainly, before the politically correct era. The scenes with the visiting Japanese delegation are a little suspect now but you have to remember back in 1974 WWII was a living memory for anyone over thirty and so attitudes obviously were a little different. Not to excuse it but it has to be considered.
Regardless it’s the music and scenes of the city that stuck with me all these years and whenever I am needing a fix of funky cop themed music this soundtrack is always in the mix. Honorable mention must go to the film Black Caesar which came out the year before and with the awesome funky soundtrack from James Brown. That one is the bomb and full of hip-hop samples. The Pelham soundtrack never got an official release at the time other than a promo radio spot seven inch with three cues but a few years back Simply Vinyl made a pressing and Retrograde put out an official CD in 1996. I’m guessing my US pressing was dubbed from that. It has all the cues and the kick-ass opening and end credit themes. You should seek it out.
 

The Taking Of Pelham One Two Three End credits-David Shire.
 
Thanks for reading friends. Let me know if you fall down a cop show theme tune rabbit hole like me. Until next time.

Staff Picks: Usman

Today I write about a bouquet of absolute hardcore classics! I apologize for writing about two recent releases that are not actually available through Sorry State (which I will write about first.) However, per usual, anyone is welcome to hit me up (in.decay@yahoo.com) and i'll make a tape dub of the Aivoproteesi record with cute lil cover and shit. And, I do have a small stack of distro copies of the Absolut Country of Sweden cassette that you can grab via email from me. I got both these releases through my homie Chris Hardy who does Velted Regnub Mailorder. I'm so stoked that he had hit me up about the Aivoproteesi EP. I first heard them in my early 20's on the Killed By Finnish Hardcore compilation LP. I think I have talked about this compilation before on a previous staff pick. This compilation to me was instantly a "modern" classic. It introduced me to so many bands. Every single song on the LP rules. If you don't know a whole lot about Finnish HC and would like to, this compilation is the one you want! Even if you do already know all these bands, its a really cool compilation to just throw on when you don't feel like listening to a full-length. (You can get a copy here https://veltedregnubmailorder.bigcartel.com/product/v-a-killed-by-finnish-hardcore-lp).

Aivoproteesi is also band Jeff has talked about for years haha, he had mentioned to me on several occasions before that he wished he could hear more songs by them - finally, his time has come!! Chris from Velted Regnub actually gave up his own personal copy to Jeff cos he saw how excited Jeff was about the band. Chris just has an unconditionally generous and positive attitude. He just wants to get killer records into the hands of punks. The world needs more people like him. It went down like that cos this release is an extremely limited pressing, hand-numbered out of 82 copies... strange how that happens when the band is already obscure as it is, it's almost like you'd wanna flood "the market" with the release so people can hear the shit - but I'm not criticizing the label, everyone has their reasons for every thing they do. At first when Chris told me about this release I was mad reluctant to grab one cos they are lathe-cut discs, and my experience with lathes is not so pleasant. But man, when I busted this shit out I was so surprised to see the disc looked like an actual record. The material it's cut with looks solid and well made. The grooves do look like lathe-cut though. I mean all lathes are cut in live-time so the grooves will probably all generally look similar no matter what the material was. The sound is amazing. I am so happy about it. It was completely unexpected - crisp and clear studio tracks. I expected constant surface noise and distortion cos its a lathe. The two tracks from side A were recorded during same session as the Yalta Hi-Life recordings, and never before released on "vinyl" (is a lathe-cut vinyl?) But, they were in fact previously released on Delirium Tremens Vol. 1. This debut volume was released in 1985, the year after Yalta Hi-Life was originally released. The tape has appearances from other badass Swedish bands like Libresse (I think i mention this band a lot, haha) and Nisses Notter. Delirium Tremens was a label that released dozens of cool compilation tapes where I discovered many bands. They were based in Falkenberg, a town located an hour or two south of Gothenburg on the coast. Anyway, I assume most, if not all, readers know what the Yalta Hi-Life comp is. If you don't, in my opinion it is a LEGENDARY compilation with LEGENDARY bands from Finland like Kaaos, Varaus, Terveet Kadet. This compilation belongs in every single record collection. If you didn't know this compilation already, or for some silly reason you do but don't have a copy already - you are in luck! I saw Sorry State has a few copies of the re-issue in stock. (https://www.sorrystaterecords.com/products/181024374)

So, I wrote about Anti-Cimex last week too, haha. Clearly this is a vey well distributed record, with several re-issue versions. I do have a re-issue version. I think the Brazilian pressing but I cant be sure cos most of my records are in boxes cos of this moving process I am still in the middle of... although I did find the original pressing for the photo! Of course, my "collectible" records are in very identifiable boxes... I remember reading liner notes from the 2014 re-issues and reading some really cool info. Unfortunately I couldn't revisit the notes before writing about this release. Maybe the this cassette has the same exact notes? Either way, it's a badass re-issue. The tape sounds great, good quality production here. The tracks were re-mastered by Jack Control at Enormous Door as well. The j-card is a thick, glossy stock with more fold-out panels than I know what to do with!! We get cool live shots, some liner notes, and lyrics contained within all the flaps. I did not know the original guitarist left the band after the 1986 self-titled record. Looking back, it makes perfect sense. Although I can hear a clear evolution from Raped Ass to the self-titled, the last two LPs are like almost a completely different ball game. I remember being younger, living in Indianapolis and two of my friends Adam Walker and Micah Jenkins (if you reading this, WHAT UP!!) were talking about starting a Cimex-style band. They were older than me, so naturally I looked up to them and would have died to play in a band with either of them. Micah showed me a lot killer bands I will never forget, which makes sense cos he worked the record store in town, Vibes Music. Anyway, I butted in the conversation and said something along the lines of "Yo lemme play drums!" One of 'em (I think Adam) said to me, yeah but we wanna do like later Cimex-style, not like Raped Ass. And he asked me if I even liked that shit... Again, I was young and looked up to them, so I lied. I said hell yeah of course, haha I remember Adam giving me strange look after I said this, I think he knew me too well. I think that if I would've listen to something like Scandinavian Jawbreaker at that age I would have passed on it, simply cos it's not what I "expect" when it comes to Anti-Cimex. I'm lucky that my horizons have expanded since then, cos depending on the day I might prefer to listen to Scandinavian Jawbreaker over Raped Ass! Uh-oh...

Moving on, to some hot Finnish slabs we have in stock at Sorry State! If you read my contributions to the SSR newsletter, thank you. It means a lot that you would read what I have spent time writing about. And given that you read my words, you probably expect by now that I tend to write about my experiences with a record or share some type of trivia about a release, rather than focus on the sound of it, haha. I'm not sure if thats good or bad, but it is what it is. Everything I write about, I truly enjoy inside and out. And I write about em to help spread info/awareness on the release cos I believe they are all worth adding to your collection. Of course this is my own "developed" taste. I like to think I am not pretentious about it. I don't care if you disagree with my opinions, especially when it comes to music. I don't think anyone's taste is more superior than another's taste, but it is awesome when you meet someone who loves all the same shit that you do. At the end of day, "taste" is just an opinion from a "critic." Critics that are really opinionated about their taste (ESPECIALLY when it comes to shit they dislike, or feel differently about that you) are just simply pretentious assholes. Who the fuck cares. It is just a record and it's just your own opinion. Alright, actually moving on...

At the beginning of quarantine someone on Discogs listed the Headcleaners (Sweden) EP. It was the final EP to complete my Headcleaners catalogue. The price was reasonable, but the listing also had a "make an offer" option. So make an offer I did... and they accepted!! YAY!!! After we agreed on the cost, I soon received an e-mail telling me shipping would be like $50 cos of the pandemic. We decided to just hold off in hope that shipping would go down over the next few months. This was like 6 months ago, haha. So, naturally my annoying ass would e-mail once a month to check on the shipping rates. I would get replies, but never with luck of a cheap shipping option. One day when I was writing to check back shipping, I noticed the email said Höhnie Records!!! If you don't know Höhnie, it is German label that has re-released countless records from legendary Finnish bands, amongst many other releases from other countries. Guaranteed if you love Finnish HC, Andreas Höhnie has done a re-issue of something from the band. So, I wrote and asked if it was who I thought it was... I got a reply that confirmed what I suspected, I was in fact buying my Headcleaners record from Höhnie Records! I was so excited to be in direct contact with Andreas Höehnie himself (which I probably made very apparent) and I asked if there was any chance that he had any of these Finnish HC classics still in stock. We were in luck! He wrote me back with several titles, and we could even get limited edition colors from him! So, BPDT, Velted Regnub, and Sorry State all threw down together for a massive 60lb parcel. The shipping cost was insanely high..but since there was some many discs in there, when it really broke down it wasn't too much added to each title. Unfortunately the parcel took a serious beating, so some covers do have corner damage. It's a shame, but we are all still stoked to have brought these titles into the States.

Earlier I mentioned the Killed By Finnish Hardcore compilation. That is exactly where I first heard Destrucktions and Kansan Uutiset. The Riistetyt Nightmare In Darkness is a classic. This band's sound certainly evolved a lot through their existence. This record is definitely on the more "rocked out" tip rather than the abrasive fast HC sound they initially started with. Through all their releases, they always exhibited this perfect "groove" regardless of how "hardcore" the songs were. On this LP, that groove is put on full blast. If you don't own this record, buy it. Really, you should buy every single Riistetyt record. Thanks to Havoc Records and Höhnie Records, we can find all their releases at affordable prices. The Destrucktions LP is a compilation of their highly sought-after Vox Populi LP, compilation appearances, and demo tracks! People actively list Vox Populi on re-sale websites for around $200, so this gatefold re-issue is really gunna save you money and also get you more tracks than the original! Badass. And finally, the Kansan Uutiset LP! It is a compilation of their Beautiful Dreams LP (someone please sell me the OG...) and their "unreleased" Suomi Orgasmin Partaalla EP, which was properly released on CD format in 2003 (haha have fun translating that one...) This double-disc reissue comes with cool booklet, it's got pictures, lyrics, a brief history of the band, etc. This, as well as the other titles we just got in stock are extremely well-done reissues. They will save you from spending an arm and a leg on the originals, with the added bonus of material that was not included on the original releases! Anyway I feel like I been blabbering, again thanks for reading...'til next time..




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