Featured Releases: March 30, 2023
Rudimentary Peni: Cacaphony 12” (Sealed Records) Sealed Records’ Rudimentary Peni reissue series continues with the band’s second full-length, Cacaphony. Released in 1988, five years after their previous record, Death Church, Cacaphony finds Rudimentary Peni still sounding very much like themselves while expanding their sound considerably. I’m sure there are plenty of punks who don’t go any further with Peni than Death Church, which I understand. Rudimentary Peni’s earlier records are indisputably punk, while Cacaphony is still grounded in punk, but ultimately something more than, or least different from, punk. I’ve always found it rather inscrutable. In fact, I got rid of the first copy I owned years ago, convinced it was just too weird for me… I no longer feel that way at all, so I’m very glad to have it back in my collection. I still find Cacaphony strange and inscrutable, but my attitude toward the strange and inscrutable has changed… whereas I used to feel like I had to figure out a record in order to love it, now I feel like I can only love a record if I can’t quite get my head around it… it has to have some kind of tension to the listening experience, something for me to wrestle with. And lord knows Cacaphony has plenty to wrestle with. Ostensibly inspired by H.P. Lovecraft’s writing, I’ve never found that a helpful lens through which to view Cacaphony. While it’s easy to see how Lovecraft would have appealed to Nick Blinko, Lovecraft’s work is hardly a key that unlocks Cacaphony’s mysteries… it’s too bathed in the band’s idiosyncrasies for that. Rather than trying to dissect those idiosyncrasies, I tend to just let Cacaphony wash over me, enjoying the ride as Rudimentary Peni travels through a kaleidoscopic litany of vocal personae and deep catalog of creepy rhythms. I once heard someone refer to Cacaphony as the Trout Mask Replica of punk, and that reference captures how the record is ambitious, yet fragmented. However, Cacaphony, unlike Trout Mask Replica, isn’t a difficult listen… overwhelming, perhaps, but not unpleasant. The album’s conceit is rich and fascinating, and the band is in incredible form, with bassist Grant Brand still their secret weapon. Cacaphony is a record that demands a lot of the listener, so if you just want to thrash, then maybe it won’t be for you. However, it offers a lifetime worth of rewards for those who wade into its depths.
Alternative: If They Treat You Like Shit - Act Like Manure 12” (Sealed Records) Sealed Records reissues another 80s UK anarcho gem, this time the 1984 album from Scottish punks Alternative, originally released on the Crass Records sub-label Corpus Christi. I was familiar with Alternative’s In Nomine Patri single on Crass Records, but I’d never heard If They Treat You Like Shit until this reissue, so I didn’t know what to expect. On one hand, If They Treat You Like Shit is a pretty on-the-nose anarcho / peace punk album, but even so it’s quite diverse, taking in the stylistic breadth of that movement, from Crass / Flux-style ranting and chanting, to more adventurous post-punky tracks, to more melodic songs that remind me of Zounds. Of these, it’s the hookier numbers that stand out on the first couple of listens, particularly “Now I Realize,” but I’m glad it’s all here… Alternative is excellent at all these styles, and the album’s powerful recording helps everything to land with the impact you want. If They Treat You Like Shit is long and dense, so it might take a couple listens before it gets its hooks in, but the wealth of material, none of which feels redundant or extraneous, will keep it on your turntable for a good long while. I imagine this record’s rarity (I can’t recall ever seeing a copy of the original pressing) has kept its profile low until now, but thanks to Sealed Records this gem can get the attention it deserves.
Dolly Mixture: Remember This: The Singles Collection 1980-1984 12” (Sealed Records) Remember This is the third vinyl reissue from the Dolly Mixture we’ve had in the past several years, following the reissue of their legendary Demonstration Tapes collection and Other Music, the compilation of outtakes and unreleased tracks Sealed Records released in 2019. Remember This collects Dolly Mixture’s singles, which showcase a different side of the band than the other two collections. What we hear here is the pop version of the Dolly Mixture… Dominic observed that they seem indebted to Brill Building pop on these tracks, and I also hear a retro sensibility that reminds me of the acts on Stiff Records around this same time. While there are a couple of punkier tracks like the highlight “Ernie Ball,” I find it interesting that these were the tracks Dolly Mixture presented to the public when songs like “He’s So Frisky” and “How Come You’re Such A Hit With The Boys, Jane?” remained on the cutting room floor. Monday morning quarterbacking aside, there are some great tunes here, like the aforementioned “Ernie Ball,” the effervescent “Everything and More,” and the instrumental medley that closes the album, on which the band rearranges melodies from their songs for piano and cello. It’s an essential piece of the Dolly Mixture puzzle, and I for one am happy to have all three recent reissues on my shelf.
Rixe: Act IV 7” (La Vida Es Un Mus) This three-song 7” is a retitled and repackaged version of a promo cassette Rixe released back in 2018, and while I’d love to hear some new material, I’m sure there are plenty of fans who are glad to have these songs on vinyl. I can’t imagine anyone who is reading this doesn’t know about Rixe… they burst onto the scene in 2015 with their first EP, Coups et Blessures, with a batch of songs that sounded so perfect and timeless that you’d almost wonder if they were covers of classics you missed the first time around. Turns out that, nope, the band is just that good, as their subsequent releases proved. Act IV features three more of their patented anthems, and for me the first track, “La Clé,” is the gem. It’s built around a typically meaty riff, but there’s this slow-moving phaser effect on the guitar that just makes the song. Often an effect like that can appear gimmicky, but Rixe deploys it perfectly here. They’re a band that has yet to make a wrong move, and every one of their records is worth your time, Act IV very much included.
Ultra Razzia: Jusqu’au Bout de la Nuit 12” (Warthog Speak Records) Jusqu’au Bout de la Nuit is the second album by this Francophone oi! group from Montreal. I liked Ultra Razzia’s first album, but Jusqu’au Bout de la Nuit strikes me as a lot more refined. While it’s bookended by two hardcore-ish tracks, most of the record is quite polished as far as oi! music goes, with careful production, complex (but still stylistically on the money) songwriting, and powerful performances from all the players. It reminds me of Syndrome 81 recent LP, Prisons Imaginaires, that so many people have been loving… oi! music with a somber tone and a higher degree of sophistication that one expects from the skinhead set. The last Criminal Damage album, Call of Death, and the earlier, punkier Leatherface records are two more good points of comparison. I also have to mention the over the top packaging on Jusqu’au Bout de la Nuit. It comes housed in a gatefold sleeve whose inside and outside (as well as the two-sided poster insert and center labels) are all illustrated by the same artist, Claudio Elias Scialabba. The drawings are insanely detailed… a bunch of the SSR crew spent like fifteen minutes the other day standing in a circle around a copy and pointing out all the crazy things we noticed. With a criminally small vinyl pressing of only 270 copies, I’d suggest grabbing this one quick if you’re interested.
Eteraz: Destined to Kill 7” flexi (Iron Lung Records) Just a few months after their debut 12” on Iron Lung, Olympia’s Eteraz is back with a follow-up two-song flexi. As on the 12”, they remind me of the punkier end of 80s crossover, particularly bands like Final Conflict and Christ on Parade. The sound is rooted in Hear Nothing-era Discharge, but tightened up with the demanding musical chops of the most blistering early thrash metal. The second track, “No One’s There,” sounds even more metal than usual thanks to some shredding lead guitar, which is of a piece with recent bands like Tower 7 and Salvaje Punk who draw as much inspiration from cult 80s metal as they do underground punk. Also like their previous record, Eteraz’s Persian-language vocals give them a unique sound thanks to that language’s distinctive phonemes and rhythms. If you enjoyed the 12”, you’ll want this too, and if you haven’t checked out Eteraz yet, these two tracks are a fine place to start.
Featured Releases: March 23, 2023
Acrophet: The Answer Within cassette (Escape Tapes) Escape Tapes brings us a straight reissue of the 1987 demo tape by this thrash / crossover band from Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Stylistically, this is right on the nose of what I think of as crossover thrash… the riffing sounds like it’s influenced by Slayer’s first couple of records, while the rhythm section takes on the dramatic rhythmic shifts of hardcore punk, with a Reed Mullin-esque drummer who has a knack for squeezing catchy but unexpected fills into every nook and cranny. The vocalist is a pure hardcore shouter that sounds like he’s from New York rather than Wisconsin, reminding me of bands like the Abused, Antidote, and early Agnostic Front. The Answer Within also has my favorite kind of production, a competent but bare-bones studio recording where every instrument is audible and there are no studio enhancements or gimmickry. Even the tape’s intro piece, a John Carpenter-inspired haunting synth piece called “C.I.D.,” rules. As hard as this goes, I’m surprised some enterprising metalhead hasn’t picked this up for some kind of deluxe reissue, but I prefer this straight recreation of the original artifact.
People’s Temple: I’m with the People’s Temple 7” (Roach Leg Records) Roach Leg released People’s Temple’s demo tape a couple of years ago, now they’re back with their debut, which crams eight songs onto a 7”, a move I can’t help but love. As with their demo tape, People’s Temple is unique among Roach Leg bands in that they sound like an 80s California punk band (they’re actually from New York)… they’re hard and fast, but with catchy choruses, making me think of bands like Sick Pleasure and Circle One. That’s true for “Think for Me,” which starts the EP and is the record’s highlight with its anthemic chorus on which the vocalist locks in with the band’s dramatic punches. I also love “Jangling Tune,” whose last section makes me think about the beach at sunset. The last tune is called “American Hardcore Sucks,” which is a head-scratcher given their sound, but whatever… I’m still firmly with the People’s Temple.
MV-11: Doubt the Authority 7” (Kick Rock Records) I feel like it’s been a while since I’ve heard a new band from Japan doing the classic Japanese hardcore style, so this debut 7” from MV-11 is a welcome addition to our bins. I don’t have any info on MV-11 other than that they’re from Myazaki, Japan, but when I play Doubt the Authority, it makes me think D.S.B., one of my favorite Japanese hardcore bands from the early 2000s. Like D.S.B., MV-11 doesn’t have the blazing lead guitars many people associate with the Burning Spirits style, but they use dramatic-sounding chord progressions that invoke that triumphant feel you get from bands like Death Side. Rhythmically, though, this is less about that heavy backbeat and has more of a forward-leaning, ahead-of-the-beat drumming style that reminds me of Lip Cream. Ten or fifteen years ago there were a million bands attempting this style, but aside from maybe Rashomon, there aren’t too many current bands carrying the torch for this sound. As a result, Doubt the Authority will be a treat for anyone whose Japanese hardcore collection extends beyond the most obvious titles.
Sekaannus: Aivokuolleet 7” (Mäkitie-8 Records) Aivokuolleet is the first release on Usman from Scarecrow and Sorry State’s new label Mäkitie-8. Aivokuolleet is a co-production with the Finnish Hardcore label, whose last several releases we’ve carried at Sorry State… Sorry State even co-released the H.I.C. Systeemi cassette we put out with Sami at Finnish Hardcore. So, if you’ve paid any attention to that stuff, you can guess that Aivokuolleet is another dig into the archives of 80s Finnish hardcore punk. Sekaannus released several records in the 80s, but most of them were recorded after the band’s sound changed somewhat… their later releases have a largely mid-tempo, anarcho-influenced sound that reminds me of early Amebix, but Aivokuolleet comes from Sekaannus’s earlier era, when they were a tear-ass hardcore band in the vein of other great 80s Finnish bands like Kaaos and Riistetyt. Like those bands, Sekaannus during this era fused the driving and anthemic UK82 punk sound with the full-bore, bulldoze-everything-in-its-path approach of Discharge. Aivokuolleet alternates between blistering fast tracks and a couple of Kaaos-esque stompers, and while the rough sound will weed out some poseurs, the deep 80s Finnish hardcore heads will flip for it.
Skinman: demo cassette (Convulse Records) Skinman is another project from the punk hotbed of Hattiesburg, Mississippi, and while the first run of this demo came out on 11PM Records, Convulse Records did up another batch for the band to sell on tour, which is where our copies come from. One reason I love Hattiesburg punk is that the bands seem indifferent toward the stylistic guidelines that dictate how so many other bands sound… everything goes into the pot, and what comes out is unique. This Skinman tape is a perfect case in point… the howling, double-tracked vocals might remind you of Vice Squad or Sacrilege, but the music mixes the pogo sound of 2010-era New York with heavier, grooving mosh parts and plenty of other elements that come from across hardcore punk’s spectrum. When I write a description, I try to give you some indication of what the band or the record sounds like, but I have to throw my hands up with Skinman… I can note elements of the songs all day, but it comes together in a way that sounds like nothing I’ve ever heard. If you’re uptight about how bands “should” sound, it might be for you, but adventurous listeners will love it because it’s so unique sounding, yet still firmly in the realm of hardcore punk.
Pest Control: Don’t Test the Pest 12” (Quality Control HQ) Quality Control HQ Records brings us the debut vinyl from this UK crossover thrash band. A lot of bands have been combining 80s-style thrash with Cro-Mags-inspired, mosh-oriented hardcore in the years since Power Trip got big, but I’ve remained indifferent to the trend. Thrash metal and moshy hardcore are styles I can get into when they’re done well, but I have little time for the also-rans, so merely smashing those two sounds together won’t win me over from the jump. Pest Control, however, is just a superb band. I put on Don’t Test the Pest while I was working with no real expectations, and soon I found myself bopping along to the tunes. They don’t reinvent the wheel as far as their style goes, but they have a charismatic singer with a cool voice and a real way with a riff. Pest Control’s songs are like highlight reels, stringing all the good bits together and avoiding things like too-long guitar solos or gratuitous mosh breaks that might work well live, but wear on your ear on record. If you’re curious about Pest Control, I recommend checking out the title track, a 45-second stunner that finds room for freaky rhythmic twists and turns, a blistering solo, a catchy chanting chorus, and a tasteful sprinkling of blastbeats. If that wins you over, the other 10 tracks on Don’t Test the Pest will, too.
Featured Releases: March 16, 2023
Whiffs: Scratch ’N’ Sniff 12” (Dig! Records) Scratch ’N’ Sniff is the third album by this Kansas City power-pop band. We’ve loved both of the Whiffs’ previous LPs here at Sorry State, and Scratch ’N’ Sniff keeps the streak alive, giving us more of the same classic-sounding power-pop. That’s not to say Scratch ’N’ Sniff is redundant, any more than it’s redundant to write a pop song in this day and age… it’s an adaptable and extensible framework that any skilled practitioner can make their own, which is what the Whiffs do here. While the songwriting is classic and timeless—full of big guitar hooks, vocal melodies, and lyrics about love and loss—they ground the presentation in 70s classics like the Flamin’ Groovies, Big Star, the dB’s, and the Shoes. The sound is raw and live, like a band playing together in a room (no synthesizers or drum machines here), and the recording has a slight vintage-y haze. It’s a lot like Sorry State’s own the Number Ones, and if you have a place in your heart for this kind of chiming power-pop, you’re going to like it.
Heaven’s Gate: S/T 12” (Beach Impediment Records) Debut five-song EP from this new hardcore/metal supergroup out of Tampa, Florida. If Beach Impediment’s name wasn’t enough to pique your interest, perhaps the “members of” list will, which includes Warthog, Municipal Waste, Reversal of Man, and Cannibal Corpse. I got wind of Heaven’s Gate’s existence a couple years ago, when I heard these parties had been jamming together. The story I heard at the time was that Infest was the common point of reference that got these folks in a room together, and if you have that influence in mind you can hear it in the drummer’s slightly loose blasting style, the abrupt drops in and out of said blasting, and the sludgy “Into the Sinkhole.” As you might expect from such seasoned musicians, though, it’s not “Infest worship” by any means… there’s a lot more than that happening here. You can hear Mike from Warthog’s heavy and catchy riffing style in the mix, which rules because we are massive Warthog fans here at Sorry State. Hopefully this EP isn’t the last we hear of Heaven’s Gate, because this rips.
Rough Kids: The Black and White and Gray 12” (Dirt Cult Records) The Black and White and Gray is the third album by Los Angeles’s Rough Kids, whose first two albums we put out on Sorry State. So, you shouldn’t be surprised that I like this. On paper, Rough Kids was an odd fit for Sorry State, a west coast melodic punk band on an east coast label known for putting out hardcore (which is why Dirt Cult is a more appropriate home for them), but I just always thought they were a great fucking band. Their sound is unique, rooted in ’77 UK punk like the Buzzcocks but with a dash of frantic 90s Japanese garage and a knack for writing energetic but sad-sounding songs that might remind you of the Observers. And they can play their asses off, their rhythm section rooted in hardcore and two shredding guitarists who love to trade licks. What’s not to like, right? If you’re already a fan of Rough Kids, my take on The Black and White and Gray is that it reminds me of a lot of UK ’77-era bands’ third albums. I’m thinking of the Buzzcocks’ A Different Kind of Tension, Stiff Little Fingers’ Go For It, and the Boys’ To Hell with the Boys. These are records I love, and while none of them are “departure records” by any means, they have a different sound than the bands’ more famous debuts, replacing the spark that comes from discovering who you are as a band with a veteran’s instincts and an ability to play to the group’s strengths. The Black and White and Gray is more downcast than Rough Kids’ earlier records, with less of that frantic energy and more minor-key melodies and sad lyrics. In other words, the title is spot-on and the color scheme of the beautifully designed cover (another great one from Rough Kids bassist Paul D’Elia) is ironic. So yeah, existing fans, new fans… there’s something for everyone here, so check it out.
Class: But Who’s Reading Me? cassette (Feel It Records) With their third release in barely a year, But Who’s Reading Me? establishes Phoenix’s Class as a prolific band, so it’s a good thing they’ve got a prolific label like Feel It to keep the goods coming. And boy is But Who’s Reading Me? good. It’s so good that it’s a shame it isn’t on vinyl, though I guess its awkward format (a lengthy EP with two re-recorded tracks from the previous record) makes it an odd fit for vinyl. The songs are just fucking great though, still in that zone of punky late ‘70s power-pop (they always make me think of the Flamin’ Groovies, though they’re much punkier), but crackling with an energy I find irresistible. Maybe this is an odd comparison, but this EP reminds me of R.E.M.’s Chronic Town, another record that took a chiming, Byrds-influenced sound, infused it with a punk energy and serious songwriting chops. I know we’re pushing a lot of poppy stuff in this week’s newsletter, but this isn’t one you should skip.
SoCal’s Parishioners: The Big Blast from SoCal! cassette (No Solution) This is the second tape we’ve carried from Orange County’s Socal’s Parishioners, and it picks up where the last one left off with more classic-sounding OC-style punk tunes. What I like about SoCal’s Parishioners is how they’re able to craft raw and hooky songs without sounding like either a hardcore band or a pop-punk band. Instead, they nail the sound of bands like the Simpletones, early Social Distortion, Agent Orange, China White… bands that were still writing pop songs, but infused with a thuggish swagger that would serve you well hanging out at a locals-only spot in a run-down SoCal beach town (I’m guessing… I grew up on a farm in rural Virginia). They build all the songs around big vocal hooks, but I’m partial to the slower track “Bikini Atoll” that ends the tape. After two tapes, I think SoCal’s Parishioners have proven their mettle, so let’s hope the next thing we hear from this band is on vinyl.
Split Tongue: Living in Sin City 7” (Hardcore Victim Records) Australia’s Hardcore Victim Records brings us the new EP from this hardcore band from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, or “Sin City,” as they refer to it in the EP’s title. While Living in Sin City is my introduction to Split Tongue, they’ve been around for a few years, releasing a demo and three EPs, of which Living in Sin City is the second to appear on vinyl. After a short instrumental intro that’s has a more traditional oi! sound (it wouldn’t be out of place on a Blitz record), Split Tongue launches into five tracks of what I think of as “skinhead hardcore.” The first band that came to mind for me was 86 Mentality (whom the label also mentions in their description), but (as the label also notes), you could just as easily compare this to Negative Approach or Violent Reaction… it’s a timeless sound. Split Tongue nails it too, with a crisp and powerful recording and a locked-in sound that’s like an army marching toward you in unison. But, like, really fast. Split Tongue doesn’t reinvent the wheel, but they bring some local flavor to the vocals and lyrics, which look at their own culture through a punk lens. Whether Split Tongue draws you in with their musical style or because you’re interested in their unique perspective, Living in Sin City will leave you satisfied.
Featured Releases: March 9, 2023
Factory City Children: S/T 7” (Toxic State Records) We carried a cassette version of this debut recording from Factory City Children—the solo alter ego of Mateo, Warthog’s bassist—and now Toxic State brings us the vinyl version. As usual with Toxic State, the packaging is beautiful and elaborate, and the music still rips. Revisiting this on vinyl, I’m struck by how Factory City Children’s songs are so straightforward and classic-sounding at their core, with familiar chord progressions yanked straight from the Misfits and Ramones songbooks. However, while the songwriting gives these tracks a sturdy backbone, everything else about this is so wild and unhinged that it sounds nothing like those bands. The songs are bathed in noisy guitar leads and fuzzy synth textures, while Mateo’s vocals are full of snot and bile yet still have memorable melodic hooks and discernible lyrics. It’s that classic salty/sweet formula, and it works brilliantly here.
Diode: S/T 12” (Under the Gun Records) One of the most frustrating things about not getting the Featured Releases section of the newsletter done for the last few weeks is that I’ve lacked sufficient opportunity to tell you how much this Diode record rules. I know little about Diode… there’s no description on Under the Gun’s website, though a little internet sleuthing leads me to believe they’re from Southern California. While Diode’s internet presence may be hazy, their sound is fully articulated, slathering jittery, hardcore-informed punk with massive synth hooks, sort of like Jake Roberts, Ausmuteants’ synth wizard, overdubbing parts on a Warm Bodies record. While the synth melodies grab you by the lapels (see “Van Zant”), a catchy part might emerge from anywhere in the mix, whether it’s the guitars in “Ugly” or the anthemic vocals in “Late Stage Solution.” And with only eight tracks, it’s all wrapped up before you can even think about getting sick of it. An infectious record that begs for repeated listens.
A Culture of Killing: Dissipation of Clouds, The Barrier 12” (Drunken Sailor Records) Dissipation of Clouds, The Barrier is the third album from this Italian band, and while their earlier releases leaned on an anarcho-punk meets death rock aesthetic, this new one widens the scope. The first track, “Yamuna,” is an ethereal song with the bassist employing an uncharacteristically light touch, the airy mix and delicate textures reminding me of Cocteau Twins. While “The Last Train Home” sounds like it’s ripped straight from Three Imaginary Boys, throughout the record A Culture of Killing displays a willingness to expand their sound in interesting new directions, whether it’s the xylophone on “Tangled,” the Chameleons-esque plucked guitar in “Limits,” or the unexpected reggae rhythms in “One Last Drop to Moscow.” But while much of the music is unexpectedly pop, the shouted, dual-vocalist approach ensures it’s never too far from Zounds or Lost Cherrees. I’m a sucker for anarcho bands who veered away from hardcore and toward poppier and arty sounds, and A Culture of Killing captures the spirit of possibility and the accessibility of that stuff without losing the urgency it needs to still feel like punk.
Auntie Pus: Halfway to Venezuela 7” (General Speech Records) General Speech brings us an expanded reissue of this obscure but excellent 1978 UK punk single. While Rat Scabies is on the drums and the two tracks he plays on benefit from his trademark wallop, the music doesn’t resemble the early Damned’s raw rock and roll so much as Television Personalities’ neo-Syd Barrett-isms. Another band Auntie Pus brings to mind is the Only Ones, particularly the bluesy lead guitar playing and the way they deliver the vocals in this sort of fey croak. While those are points of reference, it all adds up to a record that doesn’t sound quite like anyone else, and the energetic performances and strong songwriting are worth your while if you’ve spent any time digging past the most well-known 70s UK punk bands. General Speech’s reissue adds an extra track; recorded 8 years later, it doesn’t feature Scabies on drums and isn’t punk… more of a Cole Porter-type jazz age song. The insert, though, is a treat, a lengthy interview with Auntie himself that’s full of the trainspotting punk nerdery I love. An excellent single that will fit well into any night spent sitting around spinning UK punk 45s.
No Plan #1 zine No Plan is a small but meaty fanzine in the traditional sense of being devoted to one artist, in this case Paranoid. Aside from the brief introduction, the magazine devoted the issue’s entirety to a lengthy interview with Paranoid. They cover the band’s entire history, and explain a lot about how they work, and the band is very candid about how they do things. It’s a well-done interview, with thoughtful questions and thoughtful responses from the band. If Paranoid is a band for whom you want to own a box set of their entire discography, surely you’ll be happy you plunked down three American dollars for this artifact.
Featured Releases: February 9, 2023
The Mall: Time Vehicle Earth 12” (Fixed Grin Records) After a previous album and a couple of singles, Time Vehicle Earth is the second album from St. Louis’s the Mall. The Mall has a strong Sorry State connection since mastermind Scott Plant played guitar in Broken Prayer, whose two albums we released in 2012 and 2015. If you are a fan of Broken Prayer, you’ll enjoy the Mall, though there are some big differences. One big one is that the mall is all synths and drum machines, but while the timbres of the instruments come from underground electronic music, the songs still feel like hardcore punk to me. The Mall’s songs are riff-based, only they play those riffs on synthesizers rather than guitar and bass. There’s also a punk energy to the Mall’s presentation, and the vocals and lyrics are totally hardcore, belting out subtle social critiques with a pained shout/howl. The lyrics are worth taking a gander at, with gems like this: “Like city birds forced to sing at night / I can’t get a word in edgewise / With my kind who all sleep at night / Exchanging courtesies / And compromise with my flesh while I sleep.” While so many records we carry at Sorry State seem all too aware of how and by whom they will be received, Time Vehicle Earth feels expressionistic, like it springs from somewhere deep and personal. It’s idiosyncratic as a result, but it also has a power and authenticity that hits you right away and stays with you through multiple listens.
Rolex: Promo (11PM Records) 11PM brings us this four-song cassette from Rolex, which is a preview of an upcoming split LP the band will share with fellow LA band Grimly Forming. I’ve liked Rolex from the get-go, and these four tracks find them continuing to hone their style. Die Kreuzen is the band that comes to mind thanks to the frantic, sometimes herky-jerky rhythms and the way the guitar and bass occupy very different frequency ranges. However, Rolex is not only faster but looser and more unhinged, lunging into their songs like the Germs on a fat line of cheap speed. The songs are also so short and so quick with the changes that they make me think of the Urinals and the early Minutemen, when they were trying to cram as many ideas as possible into a small space. If you love hardcore that is ambitious as it is intense, you should listen to Rolex.
Various: Big, Big Wave 12” (Feral Kid Records) Sorry State has been repping the unlikely punk oasis of Hattiesburg, Mississippi for years now, whether that’s their well-known flagship band Judy & the Jerks or lesser-known projects like Fumes, Bad Anxiety, and Eye Jammy. Now Hattiesburg gets the regional compilation LP they have long deserved, and it’s great. Big Big Wave was born out of a project to record every active Hattiesburg punk band in a single day, and they pulled it off, yielding these 17 tracks by 11 bands. Like the American Idylls project Sorry State released a few years ago, the music runs the gamut of the punk underground, from Judy & the Jerks’ peppy hardcore to Control Room’s synth punk to Daphne’s Dinosaur Jr-inspired fuzz-n-wah indie rock and even some nu-metal-ish hardcore from Year of the Vulture. The back cover features liner notes by Biff from Feral Kid Records—who was key to executing the project—and there’s also a big booklet where every band gets to share a little of their personality in a visual medium. I love compilations like this that immortalize a particular time and place in vinyl, and Big, Big Wave nails everything it was going for.
Permanent: Hunger or Nausea 12” (Modern Tapes) By the time Sorry State released Cochonne’s Emergency 12” in the fall of 2021, the band had split, but Cochonne’s singer / songwriter / bassist Mimi Luse had already moved on to her next project, Permanent. Our part of North Carolina has always had a lot of cross-pollination between the underground punk and electronic / noise scenes (both of which found a home at the Nightlight club in Chapel Hill), and Mimi’s transition from Cochonne to the electronic project Permanent is a perfect example of the magic that can happen when those two worlds meet. I’m no scholar of electronic music subgenres, but I’ve heard Permanent’s music described as “industrial techno.” That term makes perfect sense to me because, texturally, Permanent’s music sounds like it’s grounded in the late 80s / early 90s Chicago / Wax Trax / industrial scene, with pounding, punk-inspired rhythm tracks, synths and electronics that tend toward the noisy and distorted, and clipped samples that lend the music a fractured cyberpunk vibe (the vocal sample that says “jack of diamonds” in that track even sounds a little like Steve Albini from Big Black). However, Permanent doesn’t rely on the pop-oriented structures I associate with the Wax Trax scene, but something more like techno, with overlapping motifs tracks shifting with the subtle power of tectonic plates, revealing compelling cycles of tension and release for those who listen past the relentless thump that confronts you on first listen. I’ve seen Permanent play live a bunch of times and the room is always bumping, and that energy and power are captured beautifully on this 12”. The packaging and presentation are also totally punk, a small-batch pressing (100 numbered copies) with a screen printed foldover cover. Not Sorry State’s usual fare, but it hits just as hard.
Indirekt: Nacht Und Nebel 7” (Larmattacke Records) Jeff wrote about Indirekt’s first LP, 1985’s Op Oorlogspad as his staff pick, and the same label has also reissued the band’s follow-up single, 1986’s Nacht Und Nebel. As Jeff wrote, Indirekt spreads out on Op Oorlogspad, dipping their toes into several genres, but Nacht Und Nebel pares things down to the anthemic punk rock that is probably of more interest to Sorry State’s crowd, and hence it might be a better place to start for those of you who aren’t familiar with this Dutch band. These four tracks are compact, powerful, and anthemic, sounding a lot like California punk from the late 70s and early 80s. Jeff mentioned the Avengers in his piece on Op Oorlogspad, but fans of Legal Weapon and the Adolescents will also like what they hear. Like those bands, Indirekt excels at brooding mid-paced songs like the title track, but can also rip out a fast on like “Proze in C.” I’ve been wearing out this record since the reissue came in, so if your tastes are anything like mine, I’m pretty sure you’ll get some spins out of it too.
Helta Skelta: S/T 12” (Bad Habit Records) Australia’s Bad Habit Records brings us a reissue of Helta Skelta’s debut LP from 2011. Sorry State carried the original self-released pressing way back then, so a few of you who have been buying records from us for 10+ years might already have this one in the stacks. However, by the time Helta Skelta put out their second album on Deranged Records in 2015 and toured the US, this first album was long gone. On this record, Helta Skelta’s style is one I don’t hear too much these days… punk rock with big, catchy riffs inspired by ’77 and garage-leaning bands, but played with the intensity of hardcore. If this had come out in the mid-2000s, people might have called it diagonal line hardcore, referring to the Buzzcocks-inspired sleeve designs on Social Circkle and Career Suicide records, but that’s only a rough comparison, as Helta Skelta had their own thing established here. The riffs are excellent, and while y’all know I like the fast shit, I think Helta Skelta is even more powerful on slower tracks like the almost bluesy “Submit” and the standout track “Disco Junkies.” Maybe there’s some AC/DC gene encoded in these Aussies’ DNA that makes them unstoppable with a big, mid-paced riff? Helta Skelta’s vocalist is also charismatic, the intensity of their performance emphasized by rough production that finds the vocal track frequently peaking way into the red. While this might fly under the radar for folks in the US, I’m glad Bad Habit allowed us to get this one back on the shelves for the curious to discover its riches.
Featured Releases: February 2, 2023
Sexpot Ugly Face: Anti Complete Complex 7” (Harimau Asia) This record seems tailor-made to make the 80s Japanese punk collector nerd sweat. The band has a wild name that sits just on the edge of making sense, they’ve been playing live for over 30 years yet they only released one demo tape, and people compare their music to Mobs, Outo, Bones, and Ikka Shinjyu. Sign me up! I’m not disappointed either. While I wouldn’t say Sexpot Ugly Face is an undiscovered classic, it’s an excellent record with an irresistible back story. The tape on which these six tracks originally appeared was recorded and released in 1990 (and only sold at one gig!), and it sounds like 80s Japanese punk. I wonder if this style felt old fashioned to anyone at the time? By 1990 bands like Bastard, Death Side, and Lip Cream were taking Japanese hardcore in a different, heavier direction. In 2023, though, Sexpot Ugly Face sounds in sync with the 80s Japanese bands mentioned above, so if this one looks interesting to you, there’s no reason to hold back.
Dachau: Tuomiopaiva 7" (Finnish HC) You might remember Dachau from the Russia Bombs Finland compilation. They never released vinyl of their own while they were a band in mid-80s Finland, but the Finnish Hardcore label has righted that wrong with this release. Tuomiopaiva is the full session that yielded Dachau’s Russia Bombs Finland tracks, featuring the two songs that appeared on the record and two others from the same recording session. Though Dachau’s recording sounds far more primitive recording than the other, more well-known bands on that compilation, the band was powerful. They sound a lot like Kaaos to me, with moments of ripping punctuated with tense, mid-paced UK82-style tracks. If Dachau could have mustered stronger production values and gotten their own record out in their heyday, I’m sure it would be a classic, but I’m glad we have this approximation, particularly with the booklet filled with original fanzine clippings about the band to help set the vibe.
Cotärd: 4 Track 7" (Neon Taste Records) Neon Taste Records dips into Mexico’s punk underground for this nasty little 4-song ripper. Cotärd’s sound is brutal, fast, heavy, and very dark. While they’re unmistakably a hardcore band—moments here sound like the purest Swedish käng—they borrow some of the damp and grimy aesthetic of old school death metal. Not to say Cotärd sounds like death metal at all… they don’t blast and their riffs don’t sound like death metal, but there’s a color of doom here I associate with raw 80s underground metal. Cotärd’s approach reminds me of Pollen and Absolut, two other bands whose d-beat hardcore sounds like it’s draped in a fog of old school death metal. As the description notes, fans of Doom will also find plenty to like here. Pummeling.
Rattus: WC Räjähtää 12" (Rolling Records) Finland’s Rolling Records presents a reissue—well, repress—of this Finnish punk monster, Rattus’s first full-length from 1983. This record fucking rips; for me, it’s one of the all-time classics of Finnish hardcore. It’s Rattus at the peak of their powers, tearing through a set of songs that take everything that’s great about UK82-era punk, sprinkle a little metal on them, and slather the whole thing in a uniquely Finnish intensity. It’s a great record, and if you’re interested in what 80s Finnish hardcore is all about, it’s one of the first handful of records you should check out. While I love reissues with thick booklets full of liner notes and scans of old photos and flyers, there’s something to be said for Rolling Records’ approach of making a true-to-the-original repress and getting this classic back on the shelves at a very affordable price. (I wish they had put the correct speed on the labels, though.) So, no bells and whistles, but top-notch job reproducing both the sound and the visuals on this stone-cold classic.
Strange Attractor: Good Boy Bad Boy 12" (Drunken Sailor Records) Drunken Sailor brings us the fourth album by this Canadian punk band. That makes me feel out of the loop, because I don’t recall hearing Strange Attractor’s music before, and it’s the kind of rip-roaring, scuzzy punk we try to keep tabs on at Sorry State. While Strange Attractor isn’t a hardcore band, their tempos are just as fast and their music is just as raw and abrasive as any hardcore band. However, the aesthetic is more of the tambourine-on-the-hi-hats, row-of-empty-PBRs-on-the-Twin-Reverb ilk. Think the corner of the Total Punk party where bands like the Curleys, Live Fast Die, the Outdoorsmen, and Lysol hang out… or maybe Dean Dirg or Henry Fiat’s Open Sore. While this type of sound works well live, it’s also pretty nice in the comfort of my home without someone else’s beer getting spilled all over me.
Camping Sex: 1914 12" (Static Age Musik) Germany’s Static Age Musik brings us a reissue of this 1985 German underground punk / no-wave obscurity. There’s a blurb on the hype sticker where Thurston Moore says Camping Sex was “super influential on Sonic Youth.” I suppose that might give you some indication of what Camping Sex is all about, but if it weren’t for that quote, Sonic Youth wouldn’t spring to my mind as a comparison for Camping Sex. To me, they sound more like Flipper, the Birthday Party, or Laughing Hyenas… like those bands, Camping Sex’s songs are built around dissonant textures riding atop steady, even slightly bluesy grooves. That groovy aspect of Camping Sex’s sound makes me wonder if they also absorbed some of their modus operandi from their country’s tradition of groovy underground bands like Can, Neu!, and Kraftwerk. Vibe-wise, though, Camping Sex is pure art punk… emotionally raw, cathartic, abrasive, and fucking loud, like a lot of mid-80s US punk. If you played it for me and I didn’t notice the lyrics were in German, I might guess this came out on Homestead Records. Like a lot of this music, this isn’t so much about traditional pop hooks as riding waves of emotional turbulence, ebbing toward reflection and flowing into periods of gestalt. I like the music, but to me the accompanying booklet is just as interesting, jam-packed with arty photos of the band.
Featured Releases: January 19, 2023
Total Armsvett: Anarki A Frihet 12" (Import) This Fan Club LP collects 20 tracks from the 80s Swedish hardcore band Total Armsvett. After releasing the handful of cassettes compiled here, Total Armsvett changed their name to Disarm and released two of the best, most punishing Swedish hardcore punk records ever… records that stand toe to toe with other classics from their time and place like Anti-Cimex, Crude SS, Mob 47, and Shitlickers. While you can hear some development over the course of Anarki A Frihet’s 20 tracks, it’s also clear that Total Armsvett knew what they wanted to do from the start: play raw, feral, Discharge-influenced hardcore with maximum noise, intensity, and brutality. By the end of this collection (which, if I understand the liner notes correctly, are songs recorded after they changed their name to Disarm, but were written during the Total Armsvett phase of the band) the production is more dialed-in and the playing a hair more adept, but the focus on pummeling hardcore never shifts. No funk, no death, etc. While this Fan Club collection doesn’t feature the extensive packaging we expect from legit reissues, the sound is excellent and the record just steamrolls you from start to finish.
Various: This Is Copenhagen 12" (Elektriske Plader) This is Copenhagen is the second compilation of contemporary(-ish) Danish punk we’ve had in the past couple of weeks, though this one presents a very different view of the scene than the recent Öresund HC Omnibus LP on Adult Crash Records (though there is a little overlap). According to the excellent, informative liner notes inside This Is Copenhagen’s gatefold sleeve, this LP documents the era of Copenhagen punk between the well-known “K-Town” scene with bands like Amdi Petersens Armé, No Hope for the Kids, and Gorilla Angreb, and the contemporary Copenhagen scene. This Is Copenhagen encompasses the years just after when the original location of Ungdomshuset—which was the hub for the K-Town scene—was demolished by the city of Copenhagen in 2007. While these may have seemed like wilderness years to outsiders, This Is Copenhagen shows there was still plenty happening, particularly if your interests were broader than the stripped-down punk the K-Town bands played. Of course there’s plenty of that on This Is Copenhagen, with Junta, Death Token, The War Goes On, and Night Fever carrying over sounds and personnel from the earlier era, but This Is Copenhagen also showcases the more melodic punk of Big Mess and the more post-punk-oriented sounds of Chainsaw Eater, Kold Front, and Melting Walkmen, among others. The music is strong throughout and the extensive liner notes bring it all together, providing a detailed snapshot of this fertile period of Copenhagen punk history.
Smirk: Material 12” (Feel It Records) Material is the much-anticipated second album from Los Angeles’s Smirk, whose earlier LP and 12” EP turned a lot of heads, both at Sorry State and in the wider punk scene. Smirk feels like a project with a lot of energy behind it, and Material maintains the excitement level by moving forward without abandoning what everyone liked about the earlier releases. There are still some egg punk trappings like the warbly, lo-fi tones and the frequent and dramatic use of out-there synth sounds, but it feels like Material moves the emphasis from the sounds to the songs themselves, which are very strong. Material also avoids the jittery, hyperactive feel of so many egg punk-type bands, cruising along to slacker rhythms that wouldn’t be out place on one of Pavement’s first two albums. Just check out the lead single “Souvenir” if you haven’t already. Its shimmering lead guitar line is one of Material’s high points, and the lyrics and vocals reach for a Parquet Courts style of intellectual ennui. Taking the sounds of the deep underground and applying them to a pop context is an age-old trick, but it’s one that works if you have the chops, and Smirk can pen a catchy, well-structured tune.
Ženevski Dekret: Protest 1986-1988 cassette (Aftermath Tapes) Protest 1986-1988 compiles two cassette-only releases from this 80s Yugoslavian band. Besides releasing these two cassettes, they appeared on a handful of compilations and gigged with all the well-known Yugoslavian punk bands of the day. Judging by the sound and the info on the j-card, the two cassettes capture two different eras of the band. The first side of the tape, their 1986 release, pulls from across the punk spectrum, from anthemic Pistols-influenced rock songs to UK82-style hardcore to post-punk influenced sounds a la Killing Joke or Bauhaus. The label’s description compares it to UK anarcho, and Ženevski Dekret’s eclectic songs and raw sound on that recording bears a resemblance to a lot of those bands. As for the 1988 release on the b-side, only the bass player remains from the 1986 tape’s lineup and the music is more metal, with a discernible Metallica influence (they even cover “Master of Puppets”). They also cover “Chinese Rocks,” though, and there’s a raw punk energy to the recording that you’ll love if you’re a sucker for raw 80s metal demos from the tape trading circuit. And while you can hear the western influences on Ženevski Dekret’s music, their language and the musical traditions they undoubtedly absorbed in their pre-punk days gives the music a unique character. This is a very cool artifact for 80s European punk deep heads.
Trash Knife: Hungover 7” flexi (FDH Records) Hungover is the latest 2-song flexi from this Philadelphia band whose praises I’ve been singing in the Sorry State newsletter for many years. Longtime readers will know I’m a sucker for bands who combine hardcore energy and grit with melodic vocal and instrumental hooks, and Trash Knife has the proportions of this delicate recipe down pat. The trick is to keep things from getting too slick and pop-punky, but this isn’t a problem for Trash Knife’s vocalist Lauren, whose gravelly, raspy voice and nihilistic lyrics keep Trash Knife lodged firmly in the gutter, just where I like it. The chorus hook to “DTF”—“down to fuck… fuck shit up”—says it all… Trash Knife is as clever as they are confrontational, and I’m stoked to have another earful on this flexi.
Blatant Dissent: 1985-1986 12” (Alonas Dream Records) I remember picking up Blatant Dissent’s 1985 7” Is There a Fear in the late 90s or early 00s—back when you could still find cheap 80s punk 7”s to take chances on—and I always thought it was an enjoyable slab of melodic, Chicago-style punk/hardcore. Now, Alonas Dream gives us 1985-1986, which fills out the band’s story with all the tracks from Is There a Fear plus additional ones from the same session and another session recorded a year later. If you enjoyed the Sluggo reissue we wrote about a few weeks ago, Blatant Dissent will be up your alley too. They sound like a mid-80s hardcore punk band, specifically the ones who chose not to go metal, but to channel their growing musical sophistication into crafting hooky, energetic, and memorable songs. The first session compiled here, from which Blatant Dissent culled Is There a Fear’s four tracks, reminds me a lot of DC’s Marginal Man (as well as the second side of the aforementioned Sluggo record), and if you dig that style of post-Minor Threat / 7 Seconds style melodic hardcore, it’s hard to imagine you won’t like them. You can still hear that DC influence on the 1986 session captured here, with Blatant Dissent’s sound expanding to incorporate elements that wouldn’t be out of place on a Scream or Beefeater record. While I’ve just dropped a lot of DC comparisons, Blatant Dissent also wears their Chicago influences on their sleeve (they were from the college town of Dekalb, Illinois), particularly in the soaring, whoa-oh lead vocals, which are straight out of the Naked Raygun playbook (Naked Raygun’s Jeff Pezaati even produced the 1985 studio session). As those artier influences continued to color Blatant Dissent’s music, they changed their name to Tar and released a bunch of influential noise rock records on Amphetamine Reptile and Touch and Go. 1985-1986 also features the liner notes, photos, flyers, and other contextual info that helps to deepen your understanding and appreciation of the music, so if you’re an 80s punk nerd, you know what to do.
Featured Releases: January 12, 2023
Vidro: Glöd 12” (Beach Impediment Records) Stockholm, Sweden’s Vidro has been kicking around for a few years, releasing their debut full-length in 2018, a split LP with Brazil’s Cankro in 2019, and now Glöd, their second full-length. I first heard Vidro about a year ago and wondered how a hardcore band this good could fly under my radar. Their sound is massive, with a straightforward hardcore foundation that leans toward noise rock’s more sophisticated pummeling strategies. The band can play their asses off, their wrecking ball rhythm section anchored by drummer Staffan (who played in a later lineup of Headcleaners!). Rather than relying on flashy fills, Staffan creates skewed takes on classic punk beats that he delivers with the uniform intensity of heavy industrial equipment. Guitarist Lucas favors dense and dissonant chords, giving the music a richness of texture that reminds me of Die Kreuzen and Nog Watt. Vocalist Vendela fronts this white-hot band, matching the instruments’ magical blend of subtlety and intensity… as with the music, once you stop recoiling from the initial attack, you hear all this subtle musicality in the vocals that keeps you coming by for repeated listens. I’m hard-pressed to find any close comparisons for Vidro’s style, though the battering-ram intensity of their mid-paced tracks will appeal to fans of Golpe. If you can’t tell, I’m smitten with Vidro and Glöd, and I’m stoked the record has an appropriate American home on Beach Impediment Records, the top label in the game.
Prisão: S/T 7” (Adult Crash Records) Denmark’s Adult Crash Records brings us this debut from Stockholm, Sweden’s Prisão. If you’re thinking that Prisão doesn’t look like a Swedish word, you’re right… Prisão’s vocalist is Lucas—also the guitarist in Vidro—who is from Brazil and sings in Portuguese for Prisão. Prisão fits right in on Adult Crash’s roster full of exciting Scandinavian bands whose music is rooted in gritty 80s hardcore. While Lucas’s other band Vidro fuses subtlety and power, Prisão has no time for the former, with a stomping, bruising caveman attack. Not that it’s dumb… the riffs and beats are smart but straightforward, the band dragging their knuckles as they march toward their muse. It’s burly and mean, but not tough-guy shit… music made for purging the grinding monotony of the straight world. Totally killer.
Various: Öresund HC Omnibus 12” (Adult Crash Records) Like the classic Japanese hardcore compilation Thrash Til Death, Öresund HC Omnibus presents an EPs worth of material from four different bands, including individual front, rear, and insert artwork for each. I love this style of compilation since it feels like playing four killer 7” EPs right in a row, but costs about half as much as four 7”s. It’s great value for money, especially when the bands are well-matched, as they are here. Denmark’s Adult Crash Records has been one of my favorite labels for many years (in fact, several of Sorry State’s own releases have European pressings on Adult Crash), and if you have followed them, you have a good idea of what these bands sound like. While some of Adult Crash’s bands here and there lean toward particular styles like d-beat, oi!, or UK82, everything on the label is fast hardcore punk, and Öresund HC Omnibus follows the pattern. All four bands—Zyfilis, Nonplus, Junta, and Hag—have earlier releases (though Nonplus only had a demo tape)—so you might come to this record looking for new material by a band you already like, or you might like the sampler aspect of it… either way you’ll be satisfied. All four bands play sprightly and catchy hardcore punk, but each group brings in its own wrinkles. Zyfilis has their explosive guitar leads, Nonplus a gnarlier sound that borrows from the rawer end of the Totalitär school, Junta’s manic hardcore exudes desperation, and Hag’s fist-pumping hardcore punk will appeal to fans of their fellow Swedes Axe Rash. All four bands are killer—like everything on Adult Crash—and you can’t go wrong with this if you want to get hip to four great contemporary hardcore bands from this part of the world.
The Dishrags: Three (1978-1979) 12” (Supreme Echo Records) Archival label Supreme Echo Records brings us an updated version of Three, their retrospective release from the Dishrags, a Vancouver group who lay claim to the title of being the first all-woman punk band in North America. Supreme Echo released Three back in 2014, but this new pressing makes some additions to the booklet full of archival material that accompanies the record. The Dishrags were not just the first all-woman punk band in North America, they were one of the continent’s earliest punk bands period, and like a lot of other early Canadian punk bands, they seem more connected to the UK 77 set than many American bands of the same era (Three even includes covers of the Clash and the Adverts). The Dishrags’ three-song single (reproduced in full here) sounds like one of the legions of bands who formed in the UK in the Sex Pistols’ wake, when an entire generation of young people (the Dishrags were only 15 when they started!) realized the expressive potential of raw and immediate rock and roll. While those three tracks are still raw, the background vocals and more measured performances make the Dishrags’ best songs shine. Besides the single’s three tracks, Three also collects a treasure trove of live and demo material. The sound on all this stuff is great, and while I think the Dishrags’ songs benefited from the slightly more produced sound of their studio EP, these other recordings show a group who could bash out straightforward and aggressive punk with the best of ‘em. In an ideal world, the Dishrags would have recorded a killer album with this lineup, but this collection is the closest thing we’re going to get to that. It’s still a satisfying listen and an important piece of punk history.
Split System: Vol. 1 12” (Drunken Sailor Records) Debut full-length from this Australian band that features the guitarist from Stiff Richards and Jackson Reid Briggs on vocals, from Jackson Reid Briggs and the Heaters, whose most recent LP Drunken Sailor Records released in 2021. If you come to Australian punk looking for bands who are steeped in the tradition of 70s Aussie groups like the Saints and Radio Birdman, Split System is going to be right up your alley, as they combine hard rock riffing, punk energy, and pop songwriting chops in similar proportions to those classic bands. Split System even includes a nod to a classic Radio Birdman track here, nicking a bit of the riff from “Aloha Steve and Danno” (which was itself nicked from the theme song to the TV show Hawaii Five-O) for their track “Ringing in My Head.” Vol. 1 is an amped-up affair that seems like the perfect soundtrack for a sweaty, beer-soaked romp in the back room of a dingy Aussie pub, but the hooks are strong enough that you’ll still be humming them the next morning. While Split System is primarily interested in punk bashing, the standout track “Ultimatum” leans toward the Flamin’ Groovies’ power-pop… hell, you might even play that one for your friend who loves Tom Petty. I’m all for hooks, but you have to send them down the gullet with a big spoonful of punk grit, and Split System has grit to spare.
Green/Blue: Worry 7” (Feel It Records) Minneapolis duo Green/Blue are back with Worry, a two-song single that follows up their recent album Paper Thin, their first for Feel It and their third overall. If you’d told me the two songs on Worry were a hot new band from Melbourne, I wouldn’t have batted an eye, as (despite Green/Blue’s blustery locale) these two tracks have a sun-bleached sense of melody that reminds me of a lot of contemporary Australian underground music. The Mo Tucker-ish drumming and furious rhythm guitar strumming is very Velvet Underground (perhaps through the Modern Lovers, the Clean, or one of the other zillion bands whom the Velvets influenced), but these songs’ meat is in their strong, forward-facing vocal melodies. They’re both total toe-tappers, and work well on the single format where each side gets your undivided attention.
Featured Releases: January 5, 2023
Organised Chaos: Still Having Fun 12” (Sealed Records) Sealed Records brings us the collected works of this early 80s punk band from Wessex. While Organised (or Organized) Chaos never had a record of their own while they were around, they appeared on the Wessex ’82 compilation (alongside their fellow Wessex punks Subhumans and A-Heads) and the Riotous Assembly compilation on Riot City Records, so if a couple of these tunes seem familiar, that might be why. Stylistically, Organised Chaos fits in well with the Riot City crowd, with driving beats, simple riffs, and chanted choruses, the most memorable of which appears in “Mary Whitehouse,” a tirade against an early 80s conservative talking head who often appeared in the UK media (some things never change). A few tracks, particularly on the second of their original cassette releases, bear some resemblance to the Subhumans thanks to the somewhat more ambitious musicianship and the singer’s accent sounding quite a lot like Dick Lucas’s. As with most of Sealed’s releases, Still Having Fun comes with a thick booklet that compiles what seems like every scrap of information relating to the band, including tons of flyers, fanzine interviews, and direct communiques from the band to their fans. It’s a treasure for those of us whose idea of a good time is contemplating the artistic oeuvre of a bunch of drunken teenagers from 40 years ago. If you enjoyed the recent Sealed Records releases from Karma Sutra and Dominant Patri, you’re definitely part of this camp.
Subvert: A Simple Solution to a Complex Problem 7” (Janku Land Records) A Simple Solution to a Complex Problem is a vinyl reissue of this Seattle, Washington band’s 1987 cassette. This is a new one for me; I’d seen Subvert’s name on flyers and heard their name in passing, but I can’t remember ever checking out the tape before. I think it’s killer, which is unsurprising given it touches so many other interesting things I love. The list of bands Subvert played with includes late 80s heavyweights (and personal favorites) like Poison Idea, Final Conflict, the Accused, and Christ on Parade, and like those bands, Subvert’s sound liberally mixes punk and metal, particularly thrash metal. It’s certainly of a piece with the above-mentioned bands, but it also reminds me of early New York hardcore, particularly Cause for Alarm, and Jeff said it reminded him of New York crossover (by which I assume he means bands like Crumbsuckers and Leeway), and I can see that too. Oh, and speaking of other famous things Subvert touched, A Simple Solution to a Complex Problem was recorded by Jack Endino (who recorded fucking Bleach!) and Subvert’s logo on the cover was drawn by Neko Case. Wild! Maybe some of you will find this too thrashy, but I think it shreds, particularly since the gritty, lo-fi recording keeps this sounding more like a hardcore record than a metal one. This version doesn’t come with the bountiful packaging you see on a lot of reissues these days, but the straightforward presentation suits Subvert’s music.
Lama: Onks Marko Täällä? - Live cassette (Finnish HC) The archival label Finnish HC (the same label with whom Sorry State is co-releasing the H.I.C. Sisteemi cassette we announced this week) brings us this reissue of Lama’s 1982 live cassette. Onks Marko Täällä? was recorded in November 1982, the same year Lama released their one and only album. The set here is based largely on the album (they even start the set with the same two songs the album starts with), but they play tracks from the earlier 7”s too, including my personal favorite “Paskaa.” The sound is rough but good enough, and while there are a couple of shaky moments toward the beginning of the set, Lama unsurprisingly reveals themselves to be just as capable on stage as in the studio. It’s a different side of the band than their live album Tavaista, and their studio recordings too, for that matter. This isn’t where I’d start with Lama, but if you’re a big fan and/or you love great live recordings of hardcore bands (there aren’t a ton of you, but you’re out there!), you’ll get some mileage out of this.
Violin: S/T 12” (La Vida Es Un Mus) La Vida Es Un Mus brings us the debut release from this London project masterminded by Lindsay Corstorphine, who handled everything here save the drums, where he gets an assist from Jonah Falco, who needs no introduction. I am a fan of Lindsay’s band Sauna Youth, and while Violin’s angry hardcore doesn’t have much in common with Sauna Youth’s eclectic sound on the surface, there are high levels of skill and artistic ambition apparent in both projects. Not that this is prog or anything—the intro riff to “Empty Mind” is about as straightforward as you can get—but by the end of that very song there’s a synth whirring out a sinister melodic line where you’d expect the Ginn-influenced atonal lead to go. Moments like that and the off-kilter harmonized leads on “Chaos at the Seance” are my favorite parts the record, though even when Violin is in kill mode they have an artsy undercurrent that reminds me of Hologram or one of the other noisy and brainy fast hardcore bands on La Vida Es Un Mus or Iron Lung Records. Those of us with a taste for that approach will like the way Violin puts new wrinkles in old sheets.
Nukies: Can’t You Tell That This Is Hell cassette (Adult Crash Records) Demo tape from this new band from Stockholm, Sweden on the primo Danish punk label Adult Crash Records. I heard a lot of chatter about this one from the Bunker Punks corner of the Sorry State industrial complex, which makes sense given there’s a lot of Totalitär evident in the mix here. Like a lot of excellent Swedish bands (Totalitär, Skitkids, Axe Rash), Nukies isn’t afraid to add a little rock vibe to the mix, with bursts of lead guitar and big, catchy riffs that might have some AC/DC deep in their genetic history. Mostly, though, it’s just plain old ripping, with the top-notch songcraft and playing that goes hand-in-hand with so much great Swedish hardcore. If you dig this style, you’ll eat this up.
Sluggo: S/T 12” (4Q Records) 4Q Records brings us this top-shelf reissue from 80 Cincinnati, Ohio hardcore band Sluggo. I was familiar with Sluggo’s 1983 EP, Contradiction, thanks to the reissue it received in 2001 (though we’ve had a few original copies come through our store as well). Even as a fanatic for the type of 80s US hardcore that Sluggo played, Contradiction never got its hooks in me. However, this retrospective album on 4Q changes all that. After hearing this version of these tracks, I realize the problem with Contradiction is a weak mix. Thankfully guitarist Karl Meyer kept the original multi-track masters, which made this new mix possible. Contradiction now crackles with brightness, rivaling Don Zientara’s early Dischord recordings in their balance of clarity and power. No doubt Sluggo was indebted to those Dischord records, and they’re all the better for it. Like Minor Threat, Sluggo wasn’t the fastest, meanest, craziest, noisiest, or heaviest, but they wrote great songs with the catchy choruses of ’77 UK punk and they delivered them with power and conviction. While Sluggo wasn’t Minor Threat, this fresh coat of paint puts them in the league of the best bands who followed that template. Speaking of following Minor Threat’s template, this album features a second Sluggo recording from 1984 that finds the band, Out of Step-style, expanding to a 5-piece lineup and attempting to add a little more complexity and variety to their songs without losing their trademark intensity. I think they nail it, and while (as with Minor Threat), I slightly prefer the more aggro early material, I’m happy to live in a reality where I can experience both. Besides the brilliant new sound (which was all done at Steve Albini’s Electrical Audio in Chicago), this album also features a thick booklet with the requisite photos, flyers, and liner notes. It’s beautifully executed, and deepens my understanding and appreciation of the music, as good packaging design should. If, like me, you’re a sucker for ornately packaged 80s hardcore punk reissues, you’ll love this.
Featured Releases: December 15, 2022
Bootlicker: Lick the Boot, Lose Your Teeth 12” (Neon Taste Records) This new collection LP from Canada’s Bootlicker is one of those “does what it says on the tin” situations. Lick the Boot, Lose Your Teeth collects the four six-song 7”s Bootlicker released between 2017 and 2020. I’m pretty sure Sorry State carried all four records as they came out, but there are many of you who jumped on the Bootlicker boat mid-stream, or maybe even caught onto what the band was doing when they released their first album in 2021. Even if none of this music is new to you, it’s a convenient package that sheds some light on Bootlicker’s progression. That progression is subtle—four six-song EPs with black and white artwork that never deviate in terms of fundamental style or presentation—but each EP has its own character. The first one is the most primitive in terms of sound quality and songwriting, and likely some purists think this EP is the best thing the band did. Who Do You Serve draws on an upbeat punky energy, while Nuclear Family locks into a steadier, fist-pumping d-beat groove that reminds me of Impalers. The most recent record, How to Love Life, pulls it all together, with the hard-charging d-beat making room for more varied rhythms and dynamics. Or maybe my brain is just imposing patterns that aren’t there. Either way, this is a fuck of a lot of Bootlicker, and it all rules.
Kilslug: A Curse and Two Singles 12” (Limited Appeal Records) This 12” collects three releases by the 80s Boston band Kilslug: their 1982 cassette A Curse and their first two self-released singles, 1982’s Warlocks, Witches, Demons and 1983’s Necktie Party. These are hard to find records, so unless you’re some kind of crazy super-fan, this material will be new to you. If you haven’t heard Kilslug, Flipper and No Trend are good points of comparison, and I imagine Flipper in particular must have been a big inspiration for Kilslug. It’s fitting that this record runs backward, from inside to outside, because Kilslug sounds like they’re turning punk inside out.Kilslug’s music is slow, dirge-y, dark, and dissonant, but where Flipper in particular often beats you into submission by hammering on the same repetitive groove, Kilslug’s songwriting style is more compact. The grim atmosphere is overwhelming, but no idea overstays its welcome. I love the complex, dissonant chords here, which give these songs a weight and richness of texture any doom metal band would envy. However, rather than songs about weed-smoking aliens, Kilslug’s lyrics are set in the murkier world of everyday violence, reminding me of their fellow underworld chroniclers Big Black. A real gem from the dirty underbelly of 80s punk.
Violent Pigz: The Night a Pig Came Home cassette (No Solution) This cassette collects the three EPs this US hardcore-style band from Osaka, Japan has released so far. Hearing this band for the first time on a collection like this is making me feel out of the loop… the first of these recordings came out in 2016, though it looks like originals are hard to find, with editions as small as 50. Violent Pigz’ sound is right up my alley, ranging from super fast, early Dischord-style bashing to songs that are a little more melodic, sort of like Marginal Man or Dag Nasty. If all Violent Pigz’ songs leaned in that direction (rather than just a handful scattered throughout this tape), I could see them appealing to folks who like late 80s post-hardcore bands like Verbal Assault or Turning Point, but the balance tilts toward the raw and ripping. Their singer sounds a lot like Kenji from Total Fury, whose 13 Songs LP is one of the world’s high-water marks for early Dischord-style hardcore in the same vein as Violent Pigz. Fans of anything mentioned above—or, even better, all of it—would do well to check this band out.
SPAD: demo cassette (No Solution) No Solution plucks another 80s US hardcore-style gem from Asia, this time from Indonesia’s SPAD. To my ears, SPAD is a dead ringer for Boston’s Social Circkle, who released a string of excellent records during the peak of the No Way Records era. I’m not sure how deep the people reading this go with that scene, so if you need some other reference points, think Career Suicide’s less blistering stuff or a more Ramones-y Night Birds. Maybe it’s that Ramones-y downpicking that has me reaching for comparisons from the oughts rather than the early 80s… it sounds like there might have been Screeching Weasel records deep in those musicians’ collections, even if they felt like they needed to live that influence down. For me, catchy and ripping are like chocolate and peanut butter, and SPAD is a Reese’s cup… familiar, but it hits the fucking spot.
Haevner: Kaldet Fra Tomrummet 12” (Symphony of Destruction Records) Symphony of Destruction Records brings us the debut record from this band from Copenhagen, Denmark. Knowing where Haevner was based, Kaldet Fra Tomrummet’s packaging had me wondering if they were a hardcore band… they are, kind of, but if I was looking to compare them to a Danish band, it wouldn’t be anyone from the Adult Crash Records roster, but Ice Age, specifically what they sounded like on their first album. Like that record, Kaldet Fra Tomrummet sounds like a mash-up of hardcore and post-punk, with dark and complex chords from Cure and Siouxsie & the Banshees records delivered at tempos more befitting Discharge. I also hear a lot of the Wipers in Haevner’s sound, both in the dense, precise, and melodic riffing and the manic darkness that hangs like a violent storm cloud over the record. The ideal audience for Kaldet Fra Tomrummet would be goths on speed, but you might enjoy it even if you don’t fall precisely in that category.
Hated: Best Piece of Shit Vol 4 12” (Numero Group) Numero Group turns their best-in-the-game reissue skills toward Hated, an obscure band from 1980s Annapolis, Maryland with a cult following, for the first of what promises to be a multi-volume reissue series. Hated (or the Hated, as it’s sometimes written) has always been a mysterious band for me. I knew their 1985 7”, No More We Cry, as an odd four-song EP with two tracks of top-shelf, Revolution Summer-influenced melodic hardcore bookending two acoustic tracks that are like a no-polish version of acoustic Hüsker Dü tracks like “Hardly Getting Over It” and “Never Talking to You Again.” I was dimly aware there was a lot more Hated material out there and that the band had a small but devoted following (I knew this from the “Hated box set” proto-meme on the Viva La Vinyl message board), but Best Piece of Shit Vol 4 fills in the gaps in Hated’s story and brings together the band’s disparate early material in a way that makes sense. It turns out Hated had roots in primitive and playful sound collage, briefly coalesced into a shit-hot first-wave emo band, then splintered into a more nebulous project that encompassed earnest acoustic songs, Flipper-esque anti-punk, elaborate parody, field recordings, and cut-up collages that mixed those elements. Some people will only be interested in the most straightforward punk iteration of the band, whose output Numero Group collects on side A of this double album. Annapolis, Maryland was just close enough to DC for the young and impressionable members of Hated to fall under the spell of Revolution Summer emo, and the a-side tracks bring together their youthful energy, rigorous work ethic, and budding songwriting ability into a record that you must hear if you appreciate bands like Rites of Spring, Marginal Man, and the obscure but underrated Rain (seriously… check out their 12” on Peterbilt Records). As for the other three sides, they demand a more open set of ears, but there’s so much here. There are two versions of Hated’s signature song, “Hate Me,” which combined Flipper’s drone (the song’s lyrics are its title repeated over and over in an incantatory chant) with the psychedelic freakouts Hüsker Dü liked to close their records with, and Hated would often stretch the song out live, feeding off whatever vibes the audience was giving. The two acoustic tracks from No More We Cry appear here along with a few others in the same vein, and there’s also the “We Are the World” parody “We Are the Cheese,” and a bunch of other fragments and experiments. In contrast to the more sober and straight-laced DC scene, there’s a druggy quality to Hated’s experimentation, and some people will connect with the dark undercurrent that runs through everything Hated did. I’m a sucker for art freaks expressing themselves in a constricted, small-town environment, so I enjoyed Best Piece of Shit Vol 4, particularly since Numero Group’s incredible packaging (the label has won several Grammy award’s for packaging design) contextualizes everything so thoroughly and eloquently. You may or may not love every second of music on Best Piece of Shit Vol 4, but if—like me—you have a home crammed full of books and records, you’ll appreciate this portal into Hated’s world.
Featured Releases: December 8, 2022
Phil & the Tiles: S/T 7” (Anti Fade Records) Australia’s Anti Fade Records once again thrusts their hand into the silt of Melbourne’s fertile punk scene and pulls up gold. If you’re partial to the current sounds of the Australian underground, Phil & the Tiles should be on your to-hear list because they bear an immediate resemblance to bands like the Shifters, Spiritual Mafia, and the UV Race, nailing the delicate balance of melodic appeal and arty repetition that makes those bands so irresistible. A song like “Elixir,” with its repetitive structure and cryptic lyrics, leans toward the arty end of the sound (and it’s a track you’ll love if you were partial to that Spiritual Mafia album that came out a while back), while “Nun’s Dream” represents the poppier side of the coin, with a sound that is dead ringer for the Brix era of the Fall… you could slide it right into Perverted by Language’s track listing and the only real tell would be the singers’ thick Aussie accents. So many cool records are coming out of the Australian underground that it can seem hard to keep up, but this isn’t the place where you want to get off the train… this record is too damn good. And with 4 meaty tracks, it more than justifies the import price tag.
Chainsaw: When Will We Die? 7” (Roach Leg Records) Roach Leg Records skips the cassette stage and brings Boston’s Chainsaw straight to vinyl , which makes sense because the band is full of experienced musicians who know what the fuck they’re doing and they have a fully realized sound that rips. I’m sure there are plenty of Scandinavian and d-beat comparisons to throw out in relation to Chainsaw’s sound, but the one I’m going with is Totalitär. While When Will We Die? is nastier-sounding than all but Totalitär’s earliest records, Chainsaw has a similar way of weaving together straightforward Discharge-style bashing (see “Alcohol” or “Knife”) with songs that are no less raging, but are a hair more musically sophisticated, even slightly melodic (see “Emergency” and “Anti Police”). The rough production and gnarly, shouted vocals keep things intense, and I love the wild lead guitar overdubs that appear on most tracks, giving an unhinged, anything-can-happen sensibility to what is, otherwise, a very dialed-in record. It’s killer, and I’d particularly recommend it if you’re into bands that lean toward the hardcore (as opposed to metal, crust, or noise) end of the d-beat spectrum.
Special Branch: Lethal Force 7” (Roach Leg Records) Roach Leg Records takes the 2020 demo from this Dublin, Ireland project and puts it on vinyl. I’m thankful for Roach Leg’s service, because I didn’t hear about this the first time around, and there’s even a Sorry State connection since Eddie from the Number Ones is in the band. Special Branch’s songs are built on rock-solid mid-paced riffs that wouldn’t be out of place on a Warthog record (high praise!), and those riffs are so strong and memorable that I imagine you could put just about any kind of window dressing on them and they’d still sound good. Fortunately for us, I like the drapes Special Branch has chosen. The rough, 4-track-y production sounds great, and the songs are shot through with interesting flourishes of lead guitar, sometimes wild and dissonant and other times more structured yet still compelling (see the NWOBHM-esque intro for the title track). I also like the record’s short intro and outro, which mix droning guitar noise with traditional Irish singing, tying the music to the project’s geographical roots. Come for the fuckin’ epic riffs, stay for the art.
Stray Bullet: Factory 7” (Not for the Weak Records) If, like we’ve been encouraging you to do, you’ve been paying attention to what Virginia’s Not for the Weak Records has been putting out, you’ve figured out what they like in a hardcore record. High energy, fast as fuck, musically dense, virtuosically performed, and clearly and powerfully recorded. I think that description fits a good chunk of NFTW’s roster, Stray Bullet included. Stray Bullet is from Sheffield, England and shares members with Rat Cage, but the sound is a little different, taking less inspiration from d-beat hardcore and more from the straightforward pummel of US hardcore bands like Out Cold (though Stray Bullet’s music tends to be faster and more complex than Out Cold’s). While some hardcore bands string together a bunch of short, simple songs, each of the four tracks on Factory is like a mini-epic that flies by in fast-motion, squeezing a dizzying amount of twists and turns into compact, pressurized packages. The songs are so fast and so dense that they might be difficult to parse on the first listen, but once you lock into Stray Bullet’s groove, listening to Factory is like bombing a gnarly hill on a skateboard, feeling in control but just on the edge of danger and chaos. Isn’t that the feeling of exhilaration we’re all looking for in hardcore?
Rat Cage: In the Shadow of the Bomb 7” (La Vida Es Un Mus) These two tracks from Sheffield, England’s Rat Cage originally appeared on a limited lathe cut record whose sale benefitted the band’s hometown punk-run club, the Lughole, but I’m glad La Vida Es Un Mus did a larger pressing because these tracks are straight FIRE. While Rat Cage works with a lot of the same influences as other contemporary hardcore bands, their songwriting and execution are just on another level. “In the Shadow of the Bomb” is a case in point. The song’s massive and memorable main riff and shout-along chorus would have, on their own, outclassed 90% of hardcore bands, but the song has this part in the middle with a subtle key change that takes it to a whole different level. It’s like a middle eight in a classic pop song… what other hardcore bands have songs with middle eights? Rat Cage changes things up a little on the second track, “Scared of the Truth,” though that song is built around a riff at least as memorable as “In the Shadow of the Bomb,” sounding like Diamond Head doing their own take on “State Violence, State Control.” This song also has a great middle section that employs some Adolescents-esque melodies in the upper octaves. Few hardcore bands can pull off the two-song single, but I’ll take two great tracks like this over eight shitty ones any day of the week.
GG King: Evoker 12” (State Laughter Records) Evoker originally appeared as a limited edition cassette that came as a freebie with some copies of GG King’s latest proper album, Remain Intact. The cassette garnered an enthusiastic reaction (including the offer of a future release on Total Punk experimental offshoot label Mind Meld Records), so State Laughter pressed up some copies on wax for us lucky GG King fanatics. On GG King’s main releases, they have a unique style I’d describe as classic punk stretched out with influences from black metal and krautrock, styles that provide a counterbalance to punk’s short and to-the-point songwriting style. Evoker, however, has an even more experimental and playful atmosphere. There are genre experiments like the pure second-wave black metal of “Evoker 2 (Circling Starmount)” and the hardcore punk of “Punxx Picnic Destinations,” a cover tune (the Television Personalities’ “Silly Girl,” which stretches that compact pop tune in drone-y and weird directions), and stylistic departures like “Leigh’s Castle,” a fuzz-drenched psych-pop song with a drum machine that sounds like it could have appeared on an early Guided by Voices record. There’s also more out-there experimental tracks like “Evoker 1,” an excellent atmospheric sound collage piece, and “Evoker 3 (Wotever Happens Next),” which channels the WTF qualities of Celtic Frost’s Into the Pandemonium, minus the self-seriousness. Perhaps there are people who like GG King’s albums but find this looser version of the group too weird, but given how quirky and unprecedented GG King’s sound is, I imagine that group is a pretty small subset of the band’s following. Thus, if you’ve followed our previous recommendations and gotten hip to GG King’s vibe, there’s no reason to pass over Evoker without a listen.
Featured Releases: December 1, 2022
Innocent: Architects of Despair 12” (Side Two Records) After dropping two highly regarded tapes in 2017/2018, Boston’s Innocent emerges from their slumber with Architects of Despair, their vinyl debut. It’s such a Boston thing for a band to lie dormant for years then emerge, with no hype or advance notice, with a record so killer that it makes you wonder if the band has been locked in a practice space for that entire time refining and honing every detail. That’s the impression I get with Architects of Despair, which is as airtight a hardcore punk record as you’ll find. Stylistically, Innocent’s sound is rooted in, but not constrained by, Discharge, taking that band’s musical motifs and refining them into something that’s more intricate but still has all the crushing power. Take a track like “Straw Men,” for instance, which starts with a riff straight out of the early Discharge songbook but, over the course of the song’s frantic minute and a half, pokes and prods that riff like a specimen on a dissecting table, manipulating its chords and rhythms until, as a listener, you feel like you’re trapped in a building that’s collapsing around you. The vocals are also very distinctive, a bit like Tam’s high-pitched yelp in Sacrilege, but (like the music), stretched to its extremes, rendered almost avant-garde by a long delay effect. While many noisy hardcore records in this vein cultivate a sense of wild abandon, Architects of Despair sustains a seething, simmering tension, its complexity and brutality dancing on the edge of collapse, a feeling that only slightly abates on the record’s two mid-paced tracks. If you follow the output of this universe of Boston hardcore punk bands—i.e. if names like Chain Rank, Lifeless Dark, Green Beret, and Exit Order mean anything to do—you’ll want to make time for this one.
Graven Image: Discography 12” (Beach Impediment Records) Beach Impediment Records compiles the complete studio recordings of 80s Richmond, Virginia hardcore band Graven Image. The two studio sessions collected here originally appeared on the Your Skull Is My Bowl split cassette with Honor Role (1982) and the Kicked Out of the Scene 7” EP (1983), and there are a few outtakes from each session as well. Having grown up in Virginia, Graven Image has been on my radar for a very long time. I’ve always enjoyed their two releases, but this collection presents the band in the best possible light and has given me a much deeper appreciation for them. Graven Image might not have had the chops of Minor Threat or the Bad Brains, but they had some great songs, including my favorite, “My World,” which the band contributed to the We Got Power: Party or Go Home compilation, and uses one of my favorite musical tricks, the guitar hook composed entirely of harmonics (see also the Fall’s “Who Makes the Nazis”). Graven Image sound focused for a young band who didn’t seem to aspire to (or at least didn’t reach) a national level, avoiding ill-considered stylistic experimentation in favor of full-bore US-style hardcore heavy on the straight beats, power chords, and shouted vocals. Rather than just dabblers, they were key participants in the hardcore subculture, and one reason Beach Impediment’s presentation of this material so powerful is because it emphasizes how embedded Graven Image was in this world, with its expansive booklet full of flyers, photos, and other artifacts from the era. As Beach Impediment’s description states, “For admirers of early American Hardcore and not much else.”
Horrid Peace: Agony Surrounds 7” flexi (Acute Noise Manufacture) Horrid Peace is the first release by the band and label, both headquartered in the mid-Atlantic punk hotbed of Richmond, Virginia. People in the area already know the Acute Noise name from presenting numerous noisy punk gigs over the past several years, and their first foray into physical media keeps with the theme they’ve established with their gig-booking operation. Horrid Peace features a bunch of familiar Richmond faces pounding out four tracks inspired by the late 80s UK crust scene, specifically Doom. Listening to Agony Surrounds makes me wonder if they brought in Doom’s Peel Sessions and told the engineer that’s exactly what they want to sound like. They fucking nail it too, with that heavy, metallic sound that’s less about frantic riffing or big chorus hooks and more about creating this pummeling, monochromatic wall of sound that beats you in the face without letting up. Horrid Peace stays in that fist-pumping d-beat mode until slowing things down for the stomping “Human Refuse,” whose pit-clearing chug bears some resemblance to Public Acid’s moshier moments. Besides the four hot tracks, I love the packaging on Agony Surrounds, which nails the aesthetic of cult 80s Japanese hardcore flexis. Oh, and it’s limited to 250 copies, so get it while you can.
Flex TMG: Whisper Swish 12” (Domestic Departure Records) Whisper Swish, the debut vinyl from the Bay Area’s Flex TMG, comes to us courtesy of Domestic Departure, the label run by Erika from Collate. I’m a huge fan of the label’s small but excellent discography, and Flex TMG continues the hot streak. Taking inspiration from the sounds coming out of early 80s New York, Flex TMG mines artists like Liquid Liquid, ESG, and Tom Tom Club for their dance floor friendly, repetitive punk-funk grooves. While that scene is brilliant in its own right, it’s perhaps more widely known as one of the instrumental backbones of early hip-hop… see, for instance, Grandmaster Flash’s “White Lines,” which samples Liquid Liquid’s “Cavern.” That sound is so baked into American culture I can’t imagine not liking it… it would be like not liking classic Motown or something. Flex TMG isn’t just a throwback, though. They make this classic sound modern, dressing up that rock-solid rhythmic backbone with synth and vocal melodies that sound more contemporary… it’s easy to imagine a track like “Come on Over (Bebé)” playing when you walk into a hip boutique or coffee shop. That might sound like a kiss of death to your average Sorry State reader, but remember this comes to us on a super underground post-punk label with five releases under their belt, all of them brilliant and with small runs and distinctive packaging (Whisper Swish included… you need to hold any Domestic Departure release in your hands to fully appreciate it). Flex TMG might be a little outside Sorry State’s usual stylistic comfort zone, but it’s a brilliant record and I urge you to check it out if the above description sounds intriguing.
Ingrates: Don’t Wanna Work 7” (No Norms Records) While I think most people associate Sorry State with 80s-inspired hardcore, I am and have always been passionate about more melodic and song-oriented 70s-style punk, a predilection you can see in the corners of the label’s discography inhabited by groups like Rough Kids, Louder, and the Number Ones. Part of the reason that style of music doesn’t get featured as much in Sorry State’s newsletter is that I’m very picky about it. When a band hits with me I fucking love them, but when they don’t, it’s a hard pass. If things are too slick or lean too far toward pop-punk, I’m out, but if a more melodic band has super raw and noisy production, more often than not that is disguising a lack of good songs and hooks. It’s a delicate balance. California’s Ingrates hit the sweet spot for me, with a gritty yet hook-laden sound that is perfect for a two-song single with eye-catching graphics. The a-side, “Don’t Wanna Work,” is the anthem, an amphetamine-fueled singalong whose chorus hook goes for the jugular while the rhythm section hits you in the ribs with a series of lightning-fast jabs. The b-side is even better, laying back behind the beat and summoning some Steve Jones by way of Johnny Thunders riffing that sounds oh so 70s. The Boys are another good point of reference. I’m always happy to make space in the 7-inch bins for killer, classic-sounding (and classic looking!) punk singles like this.
Ervin Berlin: Junior’s Got Brain Damage 7” (Total Punk Records) Total Punk resurrects this super obscure Killed by Death-era punk single from their old stomping grounds of Florida. This is bound to whet the record collector’s appetite, since the original pressing was only 200 copies and it has never been reissued or comped as far as I can tell… it’s basically an unknown record. Both songs are strong and have everything I love about KBD punk, including bargain basement production (courtesy a local country and western studio) and a twinge of goofiness (see the a-side’s title, “Junior’s Got Brain Damage”). Ervin Berlin was an experienced musician in his late 20s who was dabbling in the punk world, and these two tracks have a punksploitation feel that reminds me of the corkers compiled on the great Who’s a Punk Compilation. The thing I love about punksploitation—experienced musicians doing cheap cash-in records to capitalize on the punk “trend”—is that it’s often capable musicians and songwriters working fast and loose, which gives those records a feel that’s different from the labored-over aesthetic of most studio recordings you hear, punk included. That’s on display in spades here, and I’m thankful Total Punk has brought this obscurity to a wider audience.
- Page 1 of 18
- Next page