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Staff Picks: September 10, 2020

Staff Picks: Daniel

UFO: Flying LP (1971)

Last week I bought a big collection from a lifelong rock fan. The collection contained multiple versions of records, import EPs, interview picture discs, and all the other things you acquire when rock and roll means everything to you. One of the person’s favorite bands was UFO, and there was a huge stack of their records in the collection. I’d been looking for a copy of their second album, Flying, for a while now, and I was stoked to find one in the collection, even if I prefer the original cover illustration to this hokey early 80s repress.

I’m not sure how familiar Sorry State’s readership is with UFO. I’m no scholar, but I can tell you they have at least two distinct eras. The early version of UFO documented on their first two albums played long, tripped-out jams that the LP jackets described unapologetically (and accurately!) as “space rock.” However, UFO’s second era started when they recruited the young German lead guitarist Michael Schenker from the Scorpions in 1973. The first album they recorded with Schenker, 1974’s Phenomenon, is as great a slice of proto-metal as you’ll find. In addition to containing anthems like “Rock Bottom” and “Doctor Doctor,” Schenker’s innovative lead playing pointed the way toward the New Wave of British Heavy Metal and beyond. If you’re a fan of 70s Scorpions, early Judas Priest, Blue Oyster Cult, and other amped-up 70s hard rock, Phenomenon is a record you need. Many people also consider UFO’s double live album Strangers In the Night (1979) one of the best live rock albums of all time, and it’s well worth a close listen too. I haven’t explored UFO’s discography beyond these records, but it’s on the to do list.

Back to Flying. Honestly, UFO’s first album kind of sucks… I’m a sucker for tripped-out space rock, but the songs just don’t seem to go anywhere. However, Flying delivers everything the first record didn’t. The production is big, clear, and powerful, the riffs are classic (see the wild, almost avant-garde main theme to “Star Storm”), and the jams are longer and more psychedelic, with the closing title track stretching to 27 minutes. While the heavy blues infection of UFO’s riffing gives it a different vibe, Flying reminds me of Neu!’s first two records in that propels me forward. It’s great for playing while I’m working, making time seem to speed up. Even when I give flying a close listen, it puts a spring in my step and makes its hour-long runtime fly by. If a band that combines the psychedelic jams of early Pink Floyd with the high energy level of hard rock bands like Sir Lord Baltimore and High Tide sounds like it would be your kind of thing, I highly recommend Flying.

Staff Picks: Jeff

Kalashnikov: S/T 7” (1984)

So recently I heard that this EP by one of the unsung rippers of Danish hardcore is finally getting a proper reissue by the great label Adult Crash. I first heard Kalashnikov on the PEACE/WAR comp when I was a teenager. The amount of killer bands on that double-LP compilation was overwhelming upon first listen, but Kalashnikov’s track “Schlueters Kabinet” appears pretty early on side A. After hearing familiar US hardcore like Articles of Faith and Neon Christ, I just remember thinking, “Who is this band? It RIPS.” For the longest time, after looking up who the band was in the booklet insert, my underdeveloped teenage brain assumed that Kalashnikov must be a punk band from Russia purely based on the name… even though it clearly says “Denmark” right next to the band name in the track listing. I’m such an idiot sometimes.

In the years following my digestion of this great punk comp and before great resources of information were so readily available online, I came to discover that Kalashnikov was from Albertslund in Denmark and that their track on the comp was taken from their eponymous 1984 3-track EP. As is the case with many great 80s punk/hardcore acts, Kalashnikov’s discography is pretty short: One 7” and one LP. It’s funny, because I remember Daniel bringing up that this reissue was happening at the store one day, and before realizing I was already familiar with the band, he said “Oh, Kalashnikov is total ‘Jeff-core’!” It’s really true. They play raging hardcore with melodic sensibility, but lurking beneath creeps a dark and ominous atmosphere. In particular, vocalist Charlotte delivers a more catchy vocal approach that to me is not too far off from their Danish contemporaries Electric Deads. But diving deeper into their catalog besides songs like “Schlueters Kabinet”, Kalashnikov dials back the tempo for these plodding, tribal rhythms that have noticeable leanings toward goth and post-punk influences – almost like Siouxsie and the Banshees. Especially on their LP Sub Version, some songs reach the 5-minute mark. For me though, the blending of these two vastly different sounds totally flows, gives the band more dimension, and warrants repeated listens.

I do feel like people’s awareness of this great band is a little bit underneath the radar. Especially considering that the cheapest copy of Kalashnikov’s debut EP currently for sale on discogs is $700 and some people are trying to get a GRAND for it, I feel like a proper reissue has been due for quite some time now. Sorry State should be getting distro copies soon. Personally, I can’t wait.

If you’re unfamiliar, here’s that fabled track that I first heard many years ago:

As always, thanks for reading,

Staff Picks: Daniel

The Slickee Boys: Cybernetic Dreams 12” (1983)

I gotta be honest, as much as I have heard the Slickee Boys referenced by many of my favorite DCHC greats, I had never listened to them (I’m a poser). From my understanding it seems like they were playing rocky punk style stuff in DC before Teen Idles, SOA, or Minor Threat ever hit the scene. I picked up this record cheap recently from Vinyl Conflict on a whim. This is the 1983 record, which I realize I am probably choosing the wrong era of the band to get started with, but I am pleasantly surprised. Its definitely New Wave and power pop influenced, I feel like this record would fit in with the Go-Gos, Elvis Costello, and honestly at times it reminds of of Let’s Active from NC (although I will go on record saying I think I prefer the Go-Gos, Elvis Costello, or Lets Active...). While listening to this record and writing this lil thing I decided to give it a pause and listen to some older Slickee Boys. I think I prefer their older material which sounds a lil more raw and even a bit more 60s inspired. But anyway, this is a solid listen and definitely a record you can find cheap. Give it a shot!

Bootlicker: How To Love Life 7” (2020)

I don’t know why I love this band so much. It must be the super anthemic mid-tempo riff structures paired with a lo-fi blown out recording. You can listen to this sucker at a low volume and it still feels like it’s gunna jump out and bite you. It’s super bare bones UK82 style punk with a USHC edge. Less is more, and I think this band is a perfect example of that. It reminds me a lot of Bloodkrow Butcher, there’s no way these fools don’t take a lot of influence from them. These bad boys should be arriving at the shop any day so keep your eyes peeled!

Staff Picks: Dominic

Hi everyone and thanks for tuning in again this week. I hope our newsletter finds you well?

The staff picks section of the Sorry State Newsletter is our chance to talk to you about records and anything else (mostly music related) that we want to share with you. Daniel gives us no formula or rules to go by; we are free to write about whatever we want. Or not sometimes if the mood hasn’t hit us or we couldn’t make the deadline. We are not trying to be clever or come off as super knowledgeable about stuff and more often than not we are certainly not restricting our picks to things that we have for sale in the store. It is nice to have copies of records we talk about for sale but that isn’t the main point and focus of the Staff Picks section. In fact, you have probably noticed that often even the Record of the Week is sometimes not even in stock. That’s not a business plan but just how it goes sometimes. Anyway, I wanted to mention that as I hope that it’s our enthusiasm for music that comes through in our newsletter first and foremost. If there’s one thing that almost fifty years of music loving has taught me is that no matter how much you know, there is always way more stuff that you do not know and there is always someone else that knows more than you and knew it first.
Okay, now that I have said that, let’s get down to business. Whilst going through some old posters that I had stored in a closet I came across one that I had made for a club night back in the 90’s with a mate of mine who I promoted the night with. At that time, we were both really into the French artist Serge Gainsbourg and particularly his Melody Nelson album. We bought an original at a record show and used the cover for the artwork on our flyer. The night itself was a banger btw. The 90’s were a great time, with the coming together of the tribes and a great cross pollination of music and styles going on. Twenty-five plus years later and approaching the fiftieth anniversary next year, this album still hits and keeps new and old fans coming back for more. After seeing the poster, I pulled out my (reissue copy-my mate kept the OG) and cd version and have been playing it a lot this past week or so. If you are already familiar with the record you won’t need me to tell you how awesome it is but if you are not then my job is done if just one of you finds a new favorite record.
Serge Gainsbourg: Histoire De Melody Nelson. Philips 1971
How to describe a record that is just seven tracks long and under thirty minutes but yet packs an emotional punch that will leave you dazed but not confused and keep you coming back for more and more over years and years? I’m not sure, I’m not a writer but will do my best. Ultimately it will be your ears that will decide.
For those not familiar with him, Serge Gainsbourg was/is France’s greatest pop auteur. His resume in music rivals any of the world’s brilliant artists. He began in the late 1950’s and continued throughout the 1980’s until his death in 1991 taking in just about every style of music going. He did jazz, pop, ye-ye, funk, erotic, conceptual, reggae, rock and electronica. Along the way, he also wrote for and performed with among others, Brigitte Bardot, Jane Birkin, France Gall and even had time to proposition Whitney Houston on live TV.

The Melody Nelson record features Jane Birkin, the English starlet as the lolita-esque love interest of Serge, who narrates the record. She and Serge had started dating and had already recorded the erotic hit Je T’aime non plus a few years earlier, a record that originally had Brigitte Bardot as the female voice in orgasm. Jane is also the girl on the cover of the record.

The music itself is a compelling mix of rock and funk with amazing string and vocal choral parts scored by the great Jean-Claude Vannier, a Serge collaborator. Produced by another Jean-Claude, Jean-Claude Desmarty and interestingly played by mostly English session musicians moonlighting in Paris to escape union rules back home. Most notable probably being guitarists Big Jim Sullivan and Alan Parker and bass player Dave Richmond.

The record has gone on to influence countless modern artists from Beck to David Holmes and still, to my ears sounds as fresh as the day it was made and next year will be fifty years old. You are encouraged to go on line and watch the videos and read all the biographical information that is out there. I’ll leave you with a link to a promo video that was made for a 40th anniversary edition that came out and for your viewing pleasure a photo of that poster I made back in the day.
Lastly before I go I wanted to mention the sad passing of two people this week. Firstly, the English actress Diana Rigg, who among many great roles was Emma Peel in The Avengers and James Bond’s wife in the best Bond movie, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, which has the best soundtrack.
Secondly, Ronald Bell founding member of Kool & The Gang passed away also. You all should be checking out those early Kool & The Gang records. There’s some killer funk on there. They also penned the mellow classic Summer Madness that hip-hop producers enjoy using. I’ll leave you with that for this week. Be good out there and see you next week.

Staff Picks: Ava

F.J. McMahon: Spirit Of The Golden Juice (Accent)

I recently discovered this album from hearing the title track on "Wayfaring Strangers: Cosmic American Music" compilation. That compilation has been my go-to the last few days after seeing my friend post an acoustic cover of "I Saw Her Cry" by Angel Oak. The way Spirit Of The Golden Juice started on that comp sounded immediately more emotional and intriguing than the rest of the songs. the way the guitar sounded set the stage for the songwriting in such a beautiful way. His voice is so passionate and full of attitude. "Spirit Of The Golden Juice" is an album concerned with memory and mystery and the preservation of the two. It's also about the weight of personal experience and how we tow it around with us. F.J.'s simple, personal approach to songwriting allows us the space to fill in our own colors and our own faces. Its themes are there in plain sight, but the questions it asks are sometimes left for us to answer for ourselves". A great afternoon or early morning album, or one that you'd put on in the middle of the night when you can't fall asleep. Next to Townes Van Zandt, I think F.J. may be my new favorite singer/songwriter. Highly recommended for anyone into slightly dark, yet easy going acid folk.

Staff Picks: Usman

This week I write about an EP recorded in 1993, Times Square Preachers' Don't Be Numb. If you have never heard this EP, go ahead and stop reading what I am writing right now and stream the EP. It's going to fuck your head up. This EP never gets old. The riffs will repeat in your head for days. Don't be numb to the '90s, eh? I bet you didn't think bands still executed this style with perfection at this point in time… Of course there has been a resurgence of this style with the growth of the internet, which isn’t a bad thing in my opinion. Hell, I probably heard this band because of the internet. I was trying to remember how I first heard this EP but I can't quite remember. I had always thought I heard their cover of Maimed and Slaughtered on a compilation, but upon writing this I discovered that track doesn’t appear on any compilations. I just remember so vividly finding this band after a hearing a Discharge cover (haha) so I spent some time poking around my brain and I finally realized I found them through Disjah.

Disjah was a band with Kawakami (Disclose) and Jan “Jutte” Jutila, the drummer (and say, mastermind?) of Times Square Preachers. Kawakami recorded his vocal and guitar tracks in Japan and Jutte recorded/mixed the rest in Sweden. Only one track was released (a Discharge cover) on the In Defense of Our Future compilation, which is where I discovered them. There are some really cool covers on that compilation, including Totalitär’s version of Born to Die in the Gutter – holy shit!!! But the Disjah cover of Why stood out so much I looked them up online to try and hear more. Unfortunately there is no more material released. I saw on the Discogs page it said they had recorded other songs aside from the cover but they were never released. Once I actually learned who was in the band I couldn’t help myself, I emailed Jutte and asked if this was true and if there was any way in hell I could hear the tracks. He replied, we had corresponded before when I bought some records off him I think? I don't know how else I could've got his email... He told me they did in fact record 5 other songs which were intended for a split with another band whose name I can't remember for the life of me. He said they didn't end of up doing the split cos Kawakami said "they weren't raw enough." I've always wondered if he was talking about their own songs’ mix, or if he was saying the other band wasn't raw enough to do a split with them!

Jutila has been active in the Sweden HC scene since the 80's. He booked, recorded, and released the tape/LP from the legendary Egg-Mangel gig in 1986, Sweden. He has recorded some of the greatest HC records at his studio, Studio D-takt, and operated the label Your Own Jailer Records. In the Your Own Jailer catalogue you will find several records by Disclose and Totalitär, some of greatest bands to ever exist in HC punk in my opinion. In the pictures above I included all the records I have that Jutila recorded or released, just so you can get an idea of how important this guy is if you didn't already know.

As for Times Square Preachers, he recorded the EP and released it. Oh yes, I guess I never said he plays drums in the band! I am not gonna lie, I don't think their first EP was very good and almost sounds like an entirely different band. If you didn't do what I said and stream Don't Be Numb EP immediately, here is a brief description of the tracks; fast but still grooving d-beat drumming relentlessly pounding over insane riffs in traditonal mängel style with a catchy-edge similar to modern bands like Larma, Herätys, Stress SS, etc. (P.s. those bands all share members if you did not know already, and if you don't any of those three bands I just listed do yerself a favor and check them out IMMEDIATELY!) Anyway, this dude is seriously such a good drummer, his fills are insane. Yer neck is gonna hurt cos of all the inherent head-banging. The riffs and drums really complement each other, and the lyrical content is on point (Especially that track White European Male). This EP truly shines and probably should be a little harder to find...but that’s lucky for you, you now have a chance you get one at an affordable rate second-hand before people start buying up all the copies! The median price on discogs is less than $5 but they don’t pop up in USA super often so just keep an eye out. Alternatively, I am always willing to make a cassette dub with a cute lil’ cover for anyone of anything I write about in my Staff Picks! ( Thanks for taking the time to read what I wrote, sorry it’s not about a new release but we do have some cool shit on the way to Sorry State from overseas right now and there’s always plenty of good shit on the web-store. Anyway, ‘til next time…


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