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Staff Picks: September 24, 2020

Staff Picks: Daniel

Sir Lord Baltimore: Kingdom Come LP (1970)

This week we got in a low-priced reissue of the 1970 debut LP from Sir Lord Baltimore, and I thought it would be a great choice for my staff pick.

My friend Jamie, who played guitar in Devour with me, introduced me to this record. Devour was going out of town to play some shows and Jamie brought a stack of CDs to listen to in the van. Jamie was (and still is, I’m sure!) way more knowledgeable than I am about early hard rock, and three of his picks from that trip stick out: this album from Sir Lord Baltimore, King Crimson’s Red album, and Roky Erickson’s The Evil One. I don’t think I had heard any of the three albums before, but all of them intrigued me right off the bat. I loved Roky’s incredible songwriting and vivid, surrealistic lyrics, and listening to the intricate and angular Red pushed me to write weirder and more complex music. It took me a little longer to find my copy of Kingdom Come, so that was the last of the three that I got into, but it got its hooks in.

Here’s what I know about Sir Lord Baltimore: they’re from Brooklyn, they were a three-piece, and their drummer was also the lead vocalist, which was and still is super unusual. When I see Sir Lord Baltimore’s name mentioned, the anecdote that I typically see is that when Metal Mike Saunders (later of Angry Samoans) reviewed Kingdom Come in Creem magazine, he used the term “heavy metal,” one of the earliest documented uses of the term in print. It’s a shame this anecdote relegates Sir Lord Baltimore to footnote status, because Kingdom Come deserves a lot more than that.

Rather than Sabbath’s heavy doom, Kingdom Come is a blues rock record, influenced by Cream’s musical virtuosity and power trio format. However, it’s not the sound or the genre that is magical on Kingdom Come so much as the execution. The record is as loose, wild, and raw as any Back from the Grave compilation track you can throw at it. Sir Lord Baltimore is just wailing throughout, playing like they’re in a state of sustained manic euphoria. While this is an even more obscure reference, it’s the closest thing I’ve heard to the legendary Speed, Glue, and Shinki album that I wrote about a few years ago, the gold standard for don’t-give-a-fuck heavy blues rock (and, coincidentally, another band with a drummer who handled lead vocals).

I keep coming back to the word “loose” because it describes every aspect of how Kingdom Come sounds. The songs sound like they’re loosely structured around a riff and/or a groove, but no one in the band takes responsibility for holding down that groove. Thus, the songs start out with one musical theme, but the players start improvising around it… guitarist Louis Dambra in particular can barely play through a riff once without twisting and rending it into different shapes. You would think a singing drummer would have a minimal drum style, but not so with John Garner, who lets the beat disintegrate into a mirror maze of fills. This aspect of Kingdom Come reminds me of the era of jazz when bebop drifted into free jazz (see, for instance, John Coltrane’s records from the last few years of his life); songs start off with a legible foundation, but it evaporates underneath you. Suddenly you realize all of the musicians are just free jamming, floating in limitless musical space.

Despite that feeling of airiness to the compositions, Kingdom Come is relentlessly fast, heavy, and complex. There’s no way this album didn’t influence Annihilation Time’s style, even if they favored Thin Lizzy-esque tight orchestration over Sir Lord Baltimore’s barely-there arrangements. It’s one of those records that has so many things going for it I’m sure many people love it for different reasons.

Staff Picks: Dominic

Hey, Sorry State World, are you managing to keep yourselves together? There is so much craziness out there right now that I know it’s increasingly more difficult to stay sane. Hopefully our friends and family and communities such as this are helping you. For me music has always been my passion and love and so even when down in the dumps I can trust and rely on a record to just lift me and make me feel something positive. Sometimes it can be a tune that is new to me and sometimes it can be a record that I’ve known for years. This past week it was the latter and I really enjoyed hearing them again and with your indulgence they will be my picks for you this week.
 
Orange Juice: Rip It Up. Holden Caulfield Universal/Polydor. 1983.
 
Daniel recently acquired a small collection which had a lot of UK bands from the 80s. There were a few 45s in there and among them was this one. It was actually the double seven-inch version but without the poster cover. Not an expensive record but Daniel, like the cool boss he is, let me have it. Thank you for that.

I have one or two Orange Juice records and CDs. They were a good indie-pop/post-punk band from Scotland who put out the first record on Postcard Records in 1980. Front man Edwyn Collins was a co-founder of the label with Alan Horne. The group put out a few singles before being picked up by Polydor and then an album but nothing was really breaking through. The Rip It Up album came out in November 1982 and the single early in 1983. It was their only top 40 entry and marked a stylistic change in sound. This record was much more radio friendly and under the influence of American funk like a lot of bands were at the time. Chic in particular were very popular. On Rip It Up you can definitely hear the Nile Rodgers influence. It’s a great pop record with lyrics that could be applied politically or romantically. We all feel the need to rip it up and start again don’t we? One of the great parts of the tune which may catch your ears is when they chuck in a quick snatch of the guitar riff from Boredom by The Buzzcocks. Classic. The single is also notable for being the first charting single to feature a Roland TB-303 synthesizer bass line.

Singer Edwyn Collins went on to have a solo career that peaked in the Britpop era with his album Gorgeous George that featured the single A Girl Like You, a world wide smash.

Anyway, I always thought it was brilliant tune and I enjoyed hearing it again. There is a 12” version called the Punk Club Version which is quite different and cool but I prefer the original single and I’ll leave a link to that one. Go listen and explore.
 
Super Furry Animals: The Man Don’t Give A Fuck. Creation. 1996.
 
I don’t know how many times I have heard this record-hundreds maybe? This was such a big tune for me and I have so many fond memories associated with it. Super Furry Animals are probably my favorite band of the late 90s and early 00s. I bought their records from day one and have seen them live at least a couple of dozen times or more. I could feature any one of their first four or five albums as my weekly pick, they are all ace. They are from Wales and record in both English and Welsh and it was after listening to my pick last week, the Os Brazoes record and enjoying the fact that I didn’t necessarily understand the Portuguese lyrics that made me pull out SFA’s fourth album Myng which is sung entirely in Welsh. I love that record so much. That had me in to my SFA vinyl and inevitably playing The Man Don’t… single at top volume. Again the power of music to lift you and make you feel something. It didn’t hurt that this song might be the ultimate political pop song, perfect for our current times.

Briefly, this was a tune that was supposed to be a B-side but ended up coming out on it’s own as single. It’s built around a sample from a Steely Dan song called Show Biz Kids and getting the publishing clearance took some time and doing. They basically had to give 95% of the tune to Donald Fagen but as the song has over fifty “fucks” in it they weren’t too concerned, convinced the song would never chart. Naturally it did, peaking at 22, possibly helped by being banned by Radio One. It was definitely a tune that endeared them to many like me and became their set ender at shows, getting the full electronic freak-out from keyboardist and sample wizard Cian Ciaran. So if you are looking for a catchy pop song to dance around to whilst venting your anger at the “man” then this for you. Essential.



Staff Picks: Usman

When I sat down to write this Staff Pick, I found it hard to focus on the music I am trying to write about, or really anything. But, this isn’t about me, it doesn’t matter what is hard for me right now; this is about the world that we live in, the world that black people have been forced to live in. This is about the police, who at their root are a systematic racist organization. Do you disagree? I urge you do research into how the police were founded in the United States. You will find their original “job” was to catch runaway slaves. Now, look into how jails and prisons first started, in Europe, and how the evolved into what they are in the United States. A prison is synonymous with a crop field during the days of colonization and slavery in the United States. When they “abolished” slavery, they had to sort out some kind of way to keep black people down, to keep them suffering, keep them WORKING (for free, of course) and to keep the white man in charge. Some people believe that black people commit more crimes because the prisons are filled with black men. I believe these people are misinformed. They do not understand what the prison-industrial complex is; they do not understand how systematic racism works. In fact, they probably reject these ideas. I don’t know. We live in such a cultural divide now. What is going to give?

In past civilizations when an empire conquered another, they would tell them like “Hey mofo, we conquered you, your nation is weak and we have crushed you, now you and your resources belong to us and we will use these tools to continue the expansion of our empire.” In this country, it is not the same narrative. In the United States, people are taught from birth that the white race is INHERENTLY superior to others. We are taught that the black man cannot be trusted, simply BECAUSE of his race. Ideas like this are a poison that will plague us until this country collapses. Ideas like this are what create stereotypes, racist thoughts, racist actions, and trigger-happy fucking pigs ready to shoot any black man who may or may not have an object in his hand. Don’t you realize we need a change, not only in our police but ourselves? If we defund or abolish the police, people’s minds will still work the same. It will take over 500 years to change the way we think about this. I don’t care who you are, if you aren’t black – you’ve probably had racist thoughts (unless maybe you grew up balls-deep in a black community). Maybe it’s something as little as assuming this random black man trying to speak to you on the street is homeless or asking for money. Do you wonder why you have these thoughts? It’s because our society is so fucking sick they have not only infiltrated our judicial system with racist standards, but subliminally filled our minds with this fucking garbage.

I have a lot more to say but I will stop, and continue where I left off earlier this week while writing about this demo tape picture above.

It’s bad I can’t remember where I heard this tape, cos it was only a few weeks ago. Anyway, I do remember realizing that Jay Stiles is in Nightfeeder so I instantly checked it out. I used to be (still am?) such a fan boy of Jay Stiles. Jay Stiles was in Disrupt, who depending on what day you ask me, could be considered my favorite band. Usually I would also have included a picture of the entire Disrupt catalogue, but all my records are in boxes in preparation for a move. Their sound evolved quite a bit in their years as a band, but I enjoy everything they released. I have always thought Disrupt is to Extreme Noise Terror, like how Disclose is to Discharge. They amplified it in the best way!

Now I don’t know this time-line too well here but after (during?) Disrupt, Jay Stiles moved to Minneapolis, picked up the guitar and started State of Fear. Fuck…what an excellent band…their two EPs FUCK ME UP! They literally never get old to me. The sound is a bit different on each one but I could never decide which one I prefer. They have an LP too, but it never seems to grow on me after all these years. Following State of Fear, Jay Stiles moved to Seattle and started Consume, who put out many EPs in about a year’s time. A few years went by in Seattle and Jay came back with Deathraid. Nightfeeder and Deathraid share not only Jay Stiles but also guitarist Brandon Jones. Deathraid is absolutely killer hardcore; mean, powerful riffing, with ripping d-beat drumming driving the songs constantly. Nightfeeder, to me, sounds like an extension of just that.

This tape is fucking MEAN. It’s funny, when personally putting out a release, I don’t really put too much effort into deciding what songs will start or end the program. If your band is good this stuff doesn’t matter, along with your artwork or even name. Haha, always cool when they have all three though, like Extended Hell…god damn they rule. Anyway, in Nightfeeder’s case they manage to show you what to expect in the first ten seconds of the tape. It starts off fucking mean and fast (jesus, how many times will I say the word mean...) The toms are rolling down while the guitars tightly pick along, creating this snowball effect in sound that manifests into a fucking avalanche of hardcore. They bust out a mid-tempo song second, and it is damn well executed. Sometimes when bands go into the slow that early on they lose me, but Nightfeeder held my attention. The mid-tempo song also has this badass alternate riffing/tempo at the end making it really stick out to me and will get your head banging without a doubt. That’s not the only slow song though; later on “Burial” they go back to the slower tempo, but in an almost black metal fashion. Don’t get me wrong, this tape is full of absolute ripping hardcore and in a slightly Swedish vein too, my favorite! The Rotten demo is 8 tracks of hardcore, well-worth the listen and addition to your collection. Ah, almost forgot, the last two tracks are covers! They cover fucking Missbrukarna (Sweden), and it’s absolutely amazing!

Thanks for reading.
Breonna Taylor Forever.
“You can’t ignore a burning police car.”


1 comment

  • Well basically Nightfeeder sounds a lot like Deathraid because it is 4/5 of Deathraid minus one lefty guitar player. The band didn’t want to carry on the name going forward so the name change.

    James Suka

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