Pinhead Music: The Underground Sights and Sounds of Keyser, WV zine This zine is a portal to another world that I didn’t even know existed. Keyser, West Virginia is a tiny town with a population of less than 6,000. I grew up in a similar-sized town in southeastern Virginia (like Keyser, our main employer was a paper mill… I wonder if the cabbage-like funk of the mill also permeated Keyser?), so when I read the description for this zine I knew I had to learn more. I couldn’t find any traces of a music scene where I grew up in Franklin, Virginia, so I wanted to hear about how this happened… how a small, out of the way place could spawn anything that might be referred to as a “scene.” Fortunately, Pinhead Music satisfied my curiosity and then some. The zine has three main sections: an introductory essay that explains the author’s (Vincent Albarano) background and how he discovered the scene, and two long interviews, one with a filmmaker who made a Super 8 film called Psychedelic Glue Sniffin’ Hillbillies and another with musician / Red Nail Music label owner Bunk Nesbit. I was unfamiliar with the art that came from Keyser—I had never heard of the film or any of the artists or musicians mentioned in the zine, and didn’t even stop to check out any of it online until I finished reading—yet I was rapt with attention the entire time. I put this down to Albarano’s curiosity about the scene and the passion his interview subjects have for their work. There’s so much detail about this little, more or less isolated universe that you almost feel like you’re there, but at the same time it’s presented with an utter lack of pretension, like it’s the most natural thing in the world for all the freaks in a small, isolated community to find one another and make art. After I put down the zine, I checked out a clip of Psychedelic Glue Sniffin’ Hillbillies on YouTube and spent some time listening to music on the Red Nail Music Bandcamp site, half-wondering if this entire zine was an elaborate hoax. But it’s not… it’s a whole world of vital underground music and art, served to you on a platter. You don’t get more niche than this and most people probably have no interest in this zine or in the culture it documents, but for the curious, Pinhead Music is the key to a real treasure trove.
The Daleks: OK 7” (Breakout Records) Italy’s Breakout Records reissues this UK band’s lone, obscure single, originally pressed in 1980. The Daleks remind me of the Newtown Neurotics; like that band, their songs are built around basic pop structures, but played rough around the edges and with lyrics that are earnest in a kind of heartwarming way, particularly on the anthemic b-side track “This Life.” I’m a huge fan of this style when it finds the right balance of pop sensibility and punk grit, and the Daleks nail it, with the tougher, oi!-ish “Rejected” lending a bit of contrast to the more melodic “This Life” and “Man of the World” bringing together elements of both. The tracks are good, but I also love the sleeve. Breakout Records has recreated the record’s original foldout sleeve, which not only includes lyrics and photos of the band but also information on where and how they made it (including the names of the printers and how much they paid for the jackets, center labels, etc.) and (my favorite part) loads of photo booth shots of teenage punks with a diverse range of fashion senses. While I like it when labels like Radio Raheem include a wealth of archival material along with their reissues, in this case the original document is so rich that a near-exact reproduction is precisely what you want.
Record Aficionado Volume 3 book I picked up the first Record Aficionado book several years ago and tried to bring some in for Sorry State, but they weren’t doing wholesale. Thankfully, that has changed, and we got copies of Volume 2 (which focuses on Revelation Records) and this third volume, which covers hardcore punk from the US between 1985 and 1990. The book’s intro states that the goal of the Record Aficionado series is to “contextualize (the records covered) in an artful way,” and that’s precisely what it does. For each of the records the book covers, you get a detailed image of the front cover, some pressing details, and a smattering of scans of other documents, including lyric sheets, promo materials, advertisements, vintage zine reviews, and other ephemera. The zine reviews are my favorite part of the book; zines back in the 80s were so mean! It seems like half of the reviews in the book are negative, which is funny since most of the records in the book are punk canon at this point. There is also a section containing vintage ads for many of the stores and distributors that sold these records back in the day, which is also awesome to see and is an under-documented part of the underground punk network. Interestingly, unlike a lot of recent books that treat punk rock as (high?) art, rather than reproducing everything as closely to the originals as possible, Record Aficionado filters all of this original material through its own aesthetic, including the print job, which is black and white with a single green spot color. I love that Record Aficionado doesn’t try be encyclopedic or comprehensive… it’s just a smattering of cool shit that will lead you down various rabbit holes to other cool shit.
Indre Krig: demo cassette (Roach Leg Records) One of the hottest labels in the land, Roach Leg Records, brings us another ripper, this time from Indre Krig, a project band based in Boston and Copenhagen. The sound is fast, 80s-inspired hardcore punk with catchy, shouted vocals a la Electric Deads and Kalashnikov, and given Indre Krig is partially based in Denmark, I can’t imagine those aren’t direct influences. That being said, Indre Krig sounds a little tougher and less melodic than either of those bands, with an emphasis on speed and power over tunefulness. The production is clear and powerful with the perfect amount of grit, the riffs are catchy and memorable, and the songs are arranged dynamically to hold your attention. If you pick up Indre Krig’s tape because the visual aesthetic reminds you of other releases you’ve liked on Roach Leg or Chaotic Uprising Productions, you’re not gonna be disappointed… this is the sort of precisely executed, powerful-sounding hardcore those labels have cornered the market on.
Devastation: Fucking Bastards cassette (self-released) This is a pro-dubbed reissue of a 1997 cassette by this hardcore band from Connecticut. Members of Devastation went on to a long list of bands later in the 90s and 00s, including Behind Enemy Lines, Caustic Christ, Destroy, Brainoil, Mankind?, Blanks 77, State of Fear, and many, many others. Devastation, however, has remained obscure. These 6 tracks were meant to be Devastation’s half of a split 12” with Distraught on Tribal War Records, but Distraught never recorded for their side, so then it was slated for a split LP with Detestation, who broke up before they recorded, then Devastation themselves broke up and aside from a (presumably) few cassette copies distributed in 1997, this is the first time the world is getting to hear it. And it rips! To me, Fucking Bastards sounds both timeless and very much of its time. You can tell from the band’s logo and the title of the tape that Devastation was working within a tradition of raw, Discharge-inspired hardcore. However, like a lot of bands in the 90s, their riffs and songs relied on more complexity than Discharge’s, betraying the influence of the more precise and musical version of hardcore that took hold in the US. Another band working from this playbook at the same time was Totalitär, and Fucking Bastards reminds me of the records Totalitär was making in the early to mid 90s, particularly in the similarly throat-shredding yet slightly tuneful vocals. If you’re into deep cut 90s US punk or the history of Discharge-inspired hardcore worldwide, you’re gonna like this.
Hwanza: demo 7” (Discos Huayno Amargo) South Korea’s Hwanza released these songs as a demo back in 2019, but Huayno Amargo wisely decided these tracks needed to be on vinyl. While Hwanza is based in Seoul, you’d be forgiven for thinking this band comes from the contemporary Los Angeles hardcore scene populated by bands like Blazing Eye and Hate Preachers. Like those bands, Hwanza has a gritty hardcore sound that has one foot in the big, crowd-pleasing mosh riffs of bands like Gag and S.H.I.T. and another in the world of cult 80s Japanese punk. While the music is energetic and explosive, it has a cultish, artsy sense of cool that I love. The artwork has the same vibe, combining a handmade aesthetic with creepy, damaged imagery. Hwanza may not be as on the nose as their labelmates Pesadilla in emulating old Japanese punk, but by borrowing the high energy level of the best contemporary hardcore punk bands, they arrive at something that’s just as strong, if not stronger.
Pus: S/T 7” (Discos Huayno Amargo) Discos Huayno Amargo brings us the debut record by this new band from Peru. The label’s description calls them “Pandemic inspired Peruvian Black metal Punk hardcore;” if you take out the first three words, they could also apply to Philadelphia’s Zorn, and if you like the Hardcore Zorn EP that we just put out on Sorry State, there’s a good chance you’ll be into Pus as well. Like Zorn, Pus blends hardcore, punk, black metal, and goth into such a fine pulp that you can’t point to any individual part and say “that’s the black metal part” or “that’s the spooky part.” The music is energetic like the best hardcore punk, has the richness of texture and oppressive atmosphere of black metal, and just a hint of the campy spookiness of goth (I don’t think the record’s Sisters of Mercy-esque color scheme is an accident). Our age of information and access to everything can lead to a lot of unoriginal music, but it also leads to bands like Pus who take a bunch of things they think are cool, smash them all together, and end up with a sound that feels fresh, exciting, and contemporary.
Welly Artcore: Directions to the Outskirts of Town book (Earth Island Books) Welly, the longtime publisher of the UK’s Artcore fanzine, has published his first book, which presents fleshed-out diaries of two tours he went on in North America in the 90s: one tour selling t-shirts for Chaos UK in 1994 and another fronting his own band, Four Letter Word, in 1998. The tours were very different, the Chaos UK tour a drunken, drug-fueled circus, while the Four Letter Word tour felt very familiar to me, basically a low-level DIY band attempting to break into the world of punk touring from the very bottom. Since the tours are so different, the two halves of the book are very different, with the Chaos UK tour highlighting the drunken antics while the Four Letter Word tour sheds more light on the interpersonal relations. As with Get in the Van, Directions to the Outskirts of Town is the opposite of a romanticized view of touring. I’m not sure if this is intentional or not, but Welly’s writing underscores the monotony of touring with little touches like listing the street address of every single venue and recycling the same jokes again and again (like calling American beer “fizzy brown water”). The Four Letter Word diary was so familiar as to make me feel a twinge of PTSD from past tours I’ve been on. I’m a fan of Four Letter Word, but when they go on this tour, they aren’t a big enough band to draw their own crowd and they’re not really able to win over an unsympathetic crowd, so they are at the mercy of the particular circumstances of any gig. They’re not incompetent, so if the promoter does a good job and there’s a good lineup and an enthusiastic audience they can have a great gig, but more often than not the wind blows from the wrong direction—a bad PA, a mismatched bill, a low turnout—and things go poorly. At that point, the people crammed into the van look at the person next to them and think, “maybe YOU are the problem” and things get tense. Which percolates because on US tours all you do is drive and drive and drive some more, and even though it seems like you do nothing but drive, you’re constantly running late and never able to get your bearings. Like a lot of bands, Four Letter Word doesn’t survive the endeavor; that version of the band dissolves after the last US gig. There is no resolution, no happy ending… in fact, no ending at all really… it just goes and goes and then stops, leaving participants and readers wondering what the fuck just happened. That is both the weakness and the strength of the tour diary as a literary genre; it’s a Kafkaesque maze where every step you take leads nowhere. Not that reading the book is pointless. It’s an accurate and honest depiction of touring the US as a small punk band. That’s interesting enough on its own, but the best parts are Four Letter Word’s interactions with their American label BYO Records and bands like Swingin’ Utters, Youth Brigade, and 7 Seconds that they share stages with. The worms-eye view of that world of mid-level commercial punk is unflattering and thankfully it’s a world I don’t come into contact with often. While the punk conversion narrative and Behind the Music-esque musician / band biography feel like rote forms at this point, Directions from the Outskirts of Town sheds light on aspects of the punk scene that will be new to many and all too familiar for some.
Spllit: Spllit Sides 12” (Feel It Records) Feel It Records has been on a hot streak, and this debut vinyl from New Orleans’ Spllit stands out even from that strong pack. Spllit Sides reminds me of one of my favorite records of the past several years, the World’s Reddish 12” EP. Like the World, Spllit shares a lot with the artier end of the Rough Trade Records spectrum: Vivien Goldman, Essential Logic, the Fall. However, Spllit doesn’t sound as retro as a lot of contemporary bands in this style; in fact, it isn’t so much that they sound like the aforementioned artists; rather, that they share an approach to music that’s instrumentally and tonally eclectic (almost, but not quite, to the point of being deliberately weird), emphasizes rhythm and groove, has smart, surreal, and self-aware lyrics, yet isn’t afraid of strong vocal melodies. In contrast to many bands who are into the Fall, for instance, the songs on Spllit Sides are shorter and more ornately arranged, and there are quite a lot of them (16!). This is smart, ambitious, and memorable music, and I’ve been reaching for it constantly, partly just to hear the songs again and partly because I hear new things every time I listen. If you’re a fan of bands like Janitor Scum and the World, this is a must-listen, but this is so killer that I think it’s gonna play well with a lot more than just the egg punks. My only issue is that I can’t decide which track to choose for my Best of 2021 mix.
Straw Man Army: Her Majesty’s Ship OST cassette (Stucco Records) Straw Man Army and Stucco Records surprise dropped this release on us, Beyoncé style, and I had to stop what I was doing and listen immediately. After I hit “play” on the BandCamp site, I read the description and this part stuck out: “Straw Man Army’s ambitious soundtrack, presented here for the first time, captures the freewheeling energy of the film and its attitude of exploration via a wide range of samples, found sounds, and themed arrangements.” Like many people, I’ve dipped my toe into the world of film soundtracks over the past few years, particularly enjoying the soundtracks to 70s art / cult films like La Planète Sauvage, Profondo Rosso, and Belladonna of Sadness. I don’t know if Straw Man Army has been mining these same seams for influences, but the resemblance is uncanny. Her Majesty’s Ship OST features a series of 13 instrumental themes, all of them short and tonally distinct, suggesting a narrative without outlining one. Each track is its own rhythmic and melodic world, and the samples add even more texture and nuance. Not that you have to be into film soundtracks to appreciate what Straw Man Army is doing. Her Majesty’s Ship OST sounds as much like Can as anything, with complex, grooving drum patterns that take the rhythmic intricacies of other D4MT Labs projects even further out there. The sound also isn’t unprecedented for Straw Man Army; the Sun Ra-ish instrumental that started Age of Exile (perhaps my favorite record of 2020) could slide right into this track listing. The packaging is also interesting, housed in a red envelope with a thick booklet that extends the imaginary world of the music in literary form. This is awesome; so awesome that I kind of wish it was an LP rather than a tape, but I’m just happy to have it period. Oh, and just to lay it on even thicker, we only got a few of these and we don’t expect them to last long at all. I suggest you jump on it.
Pesadilla: Imagen 7” flexi (Huayno Amargo) When I picked up this record, the first thing I noticed was its packaging design, a pitch-perfect homage to early 80s Japanese punk. This shit is detail oriented, with elements like the paper stock and center label layout feeling like they were beamed in from another place and time. Those are records that are very close to our hearts at Sorry State. When I stopped by our office / practice space earlier tonight, I heard a band practicing who was drawing from the same well, and several of the people whose staff picks you read in our newsletter spend our time and money chasing down original pressings of this stuff. Pesadilla clearly loves that whole world of 80s Japanese punk just as much as we do. The music lives up to the packaging too, capturing the exciting, underground feel of those records without feeling stiff or labored over. If you have a youtube play history littered with names like L.S.D., Gai, Execute, the Clay, and Mobs, you will love everything about this. Like the Sirkka demo from 2020, this record wears its influences on its sleeve yet still sounds vital and relevant.
Spiritual Mafia: Al Fresco 12” (Ever/Never Records) As I was sitting here, listening to Al Fresco and pondering how I would start writing about it, I found myself lost in thought about whether I should describe them as “menacingly weird” or “weirdly menacing.” That says it all; not only is Al Fresco weird and menacing, but also it gives you time and space to ponder things that seem simple at first glance but, when you think about them a little longer, don’t seem so straightforward. Spiritual Mafia lives in a similar headspace to newer bands like Knowso or the Mind or older groups like Pere Ubu (if the members of Spiritual Mafia aren’t already card-carrying members of the “Australians who love Cleveland” club, they should be). I also hear a lot of the Fall at their most apocalyptic. Like I said, menacingly weird (or weirdly menacing). Spiritual Mafia also resembles a lineage of Australian bands in their stretched-out quality, possessing the same propensity to ride a groove that convinces me Eddy Current Suppression Ring spent plenty of time listening to the first two Stooges albums. And then there are the lyrics, which take mundane yet cryptic phrases and repeat them until they sound like mantras. If I quote them here, they’ll seem sillier than they are, or at least sillier than they seem by the end of each of these long songs. I’m a sucker for this sort of modern art punk, and Spiritual Mafia’s heavy, hypnotic grooves and surreal qualities are bound to win over anyone with similar tastes.
Thought Control: Shock to the System 7” (Not for the Weak Records) I’m not sure if it’s just luck of the draw or a reflection of the world, but it seems like everything I wrote about for this week’s newsletter is kind of abstract and heady. If you’ve sifted through all that looking for some fist-pumping, hard-moshing hardcore punk, then congratulations: you’ve reached the portion that is relevant to your interests. Shock to the System is a vinyl-ification of a previous digital / cassette release from this one-person project from New Jersey (though, like a lot of one-person projects, they’ve evolved into a proper band). If you’ve been following Virginia’s Not for the Weak Records (and you should be!), you’ll be unsurprised to learn that Thought Control’s influences come from the angrier, more straightforward end of 80s USHC. In particular, I hear a lot of early 80s NYHC in the toughness of the riffs, and the vocals remind me of Antidote, sounding unhinged yet catchy and memorable. If you’re looking for something that’s mean as hell to power you thought another day of the endless grind, this fits the bill.
Blu Anxxiety: Play Dead 12” (Toxic State) I’ve been listening to Play Dead, the debut EP from New York’s Blu Anxxiety on Toxic State Records, for a few weeks and I still don’t think I’ve wrapped my head around it. The words “dark freestyle” appear on the cover, which intrigued me right away, and indeed there are elements of rap here as well as various “dark” sounds you might expect if you’ve heard singer Chi Orengo’s other projects like Anasazi and Children with Dog Feet. Insofar as you can describe Blu Anxxiety’s sound in broad strokes, they throw together 80s darkwave and synth-pop with more industrial sounds in the Wax Trax vein (though, like their labelmates L.O.T.I.O.N., they don’t sound as cold or as tinny as a lot of those bands did) with vocals that alternate between a rap-inflected style and a warbly croon that sounds a bit like a cartoon vampire. Which brings me to the subject of camp, which is going to be the make or break factor here for most people. Some people will dismiss this as goofy, and others will love the fact that Chi rhymes “Wrestlemania” with “Transylvania” or has a song about a “Skeleton Farm” (sort of like a goth version of Spinal Tap’s “Sex Farm,” which forces me to recall my favorite Spinal Tap double entendre, “plowin’ up your bean field”). To be sure, Play Dead doesn’t sound like anything else in your record collection, and if that is one of the chief things you look for when seeking out new music, you need to hear this. However, for those of you who aren’t as adventurous, this is going to test your limits in one way or another, so be prepared. Like it or not, though, Play Dead is one of the most distinctive and memorable releases of 2020.
My War #8 zine Some of you might have caught wind of this on Sorry State’s social media, but for the last few issues, we’ve been printing copies of the European hardcore zine My War to make this excellent zine available stateside at a decent price. My War covers a lot of the bands we like at Sorry State (as well as plenty of others we don’t know about), and it is one of the best executed hardcore punk zines around right now. While Sorry State’s version drops the European version’s full color print job in favor of more cost-effective black and white, the layouts are still beautiful, balanced, and legible. The real star of My War, though, is the content. Aside from a short intro piece, the entirety of My War is devoted to interviews. This isn’t some low-effort promotion circle jerk; these are detailed, substantive interviews that ask the subjects to consider—even defend—their work and their ideas. While some of those subjects are evasive (which is often still entertaining), the conversations are particularly great when people engage with those thoughtful questions, like Tadzio from Golpe or Nancy Barile. If you are a punk true believer, if you think the music we write about here is important and interesting, you should read this zine.
Beex: The Early Years 1979-1982 12” (Beach Impediment) While Beach Impediment is better known as a contemporary hardcore label, the label owner Mark is a dedicated historian and archivist of punk rock from his home state of Virginia, and documenting that history has been part of Beach Impediment’s m.o. from the very beginning. (In fact, the label’s first release was a reissue by the 80s Norfolk, Virginia hardcore band Front Line). The latest contribution to that series is this retrospective LP from Beex, an early punk band from Richmond, Virginia. While the recording dates on the two sessions captured here—1979 and 1982—might lead you to expect something different, Beex sounds more proto-punk than punk proper. Like the Dogs from Detroit and Crime from San Fransisco, Beex sounds less like kids who heard the Pistols and started a band, and more like people who took the Stones’ image circa Exile on Main Street to heart. These songs sound like bad drugs and bad attitude, with a similar sort of energetic nihilism to Iggy and the Stooges on Raw Power (just to corroborate, there’s a photo of Beex’s singer hanging out with Iggy on the inside gatefold). Those of you looking for capital P punk won’t find any leather, spikes, or studs, but lovers of bad trip rock and roll in the Detroit tradition will find plenty to love.
The Worst: The Worst of the Worst 12” (Radio Raheem Records) A few months ago I wrote my staff pick about Parts Unknown Records’ CD by the Worst, lamenting that there was no vinyl version, and now this LP is sitting here… it’s like Radio Raheem answered my prayers! The Worst are one of the great underground punk / hardcore bands, and it’s a shame they don’t have a similar level of notice and acclaim to bands like the Adolescents, Circle Jerks, the Germs, and the Zero Boys, all of whom resemble the Worst’s fusion of song-oriented punk with hardcore tempos. While the Worst sounds more like that anthemic west coast hardcore, culturally they were part of the New York punk scene, playing at Max’s Kansas City and hobnobbing with the original New York punk characters. Both their 7” and their 12” EP (both on the notorious New Jersey label Mutha Records, also home of Chronic Sick) are rippers, and they’re combined here with a well recorded live set captured at Max’s Kansas City in 1979. (This version omits the tracks from a later era of the band that appeared on the Parts Unknown CD; those were cool, but I wouldn’t call them essential.) Of course you also get Radio Raheem’s usual drop dead gorgeous packaging. If you love early 80s hardcore punk and you don’t own originals, this is a mandatory purchase in my book.
Porvenir Oscuro: Asquerosa Humanidad 12” (La Vida Es Un Mus) Debut LP from this band that has been kicking around the New York punk scene for several years, releasing a tape and a 7” previously. If you haven’t heard Porvenir Oscuro, their sound is more punk than hardcore to me. Rather than being built around heavy riffs or dramatic changes, Porvenir Oscuro’s songs coalesce around galloping, Exploited-style beats and bubbly, melodic bass with lots of catchy fills. Then out of the left channel (the guitar and bass are panned a la the first Ramones album) comes a screeching, wailing, noise-drenched guitar. You don’t notice how fucked the guitar sound is at first because it’s low in the mix, but despite the way it sits back in the mix and how drenched in distortion it is, the guitars still chime in with some catchy licks on tracks like “Violencia.” Atop all of this, the vocalist delivers rapid-fire invective in the verses that culminate in catchy, chanted choruses. Porvenir Oscuro has the straightforward catchiness of classic, Riot City Records-style punk, but dressed up with the stronger musicianship and dramatic arrangements necessary to stand toe to toe with the great hardcore bands in the world right now. This makes me think of leather, bristles, studs, acne, fists in the air, and tons of punks screaming along.
Spirito di Lupo: 4 Songs cassette (Iron Lung Records) Debut cassette from this Italian band that springs from the same fertile scene as recent bands like Kobra and Horror Vacui. Like Kobra, Spirito di Lupo has an artsy hardcore sound, like they’re angry and sound like shit for complex political and aesthetic reasons rather than just because they’re drink or bored or some similarly shallow reason. The recording is very raw and analog, with sheaths of tape hiss and room noise threatening to muffle the music, yet it’s so passionate and intense that it still cuts through, making it even more meaningful when it does. Much of Spirito di Lupo’s dynamism comes from variations in tempo and the trade-offs between two vocalists, each of whom has a distinct sound, but who come together to make a noise that is greater than the sum of its parts. There’s something coy about this tape, like it’s shy about revealing itself to the listener, but that sense of mystery pulled me in.
Erik Nervous: Bugs! 12” (Violent Pest Records) We’ve been fans of Erik Nervous for a while now, watching his music get better and better with each release. Nowadays he’s pretty much king of the Egg Punks, though I wouldn’t even call Bugs! egg punk anymore… this record doesn’t sound anything like the Coneheads, lacking the lo-fi production values, goofy sense of humor, and sloppy playing style that characterizes most bands playing in that milieu. Instead, Bugs! is a record that sounds much more classic. I’m a sucker for that sound that sits in the fuzzy space where hardcore, classic punk, and garage rock blend together. I loved it when the Dickies did it in the 70s, when the Zero Boys did it in the 80s, when Teengenerate did it in the 90s, when the Carbonas did it in the 00s, and I love what Erik Nervous is doing right now. While I want to put Bugs! in that tradition of high-intensity, riff-oriented punk, it’s also of a piece with recent records by bands like Dark Thoughts and Liquids; I think of these bands as pop-punk for (and likely by) people who also listen to Gauze. That might seem like an off the wall reference for something so catchy and song-oriented, but listen to “Our Hungry Fruit,” the first proper track on Bugs!, and tell me you don’t hear it… that track is a 50-second slice of lightning-fast, acrobatically played hardcore that sounds like something from Selfish Records rather than Lookout!. It’s the only song in that vein, but fuck… what a way to start the record! From there, Erik returns to the nervy, catchy punk that he’s known for, delivering his best batch of songs yet. Erik has released multiple EPs of Devo covers (specializing in fleshed-out versions of early tracks that only exist in raw, homemade recordings), and it’s clear that he’s moved beyond imitating superficial aspects of Devo’s sound—the robotic rhythms and triumphant synth melodies—and has internalized the great songwriting that found its best expression on Freedom of Choice. Like the Psico Galera record I also wrote about this week, this is one of those records I just can’t stop playing… every time I flip past that awesome red, black, and white artwork I have to throw it on, and I never regret the choice.
Toxic Waste: Belfast 12” (Sealed Records) Sealed Records digs up another gem from the 80s anarcho scene’s deep well, this time from Belfast’s Toxic Waste, a band that played politically charged anarcho punk in Northern Ireland during the period of violent unrest known as the Troubles. I wish I had more details about Toxic Waste’s story, but I feel certain the band’s environment fuels some of the potency that is so apparent on this disc. Belfast is actually a reissue of a reissue, since this record’s original 1987 pressing included tracks from earlier releases alongside rerecordings of older tracks (with a couple of folks from D.I.R.T. subbing in) (also worth noting if you’re a fan of D.I.R.T.: Toxic Waste sounds a lot like D.I.R.T.). As for the music, I hear elements of many sounds that were popular at the time, from bruising, Riot City-style punk to the Subhumans’ more adventurous, proggy vibes (I hear this in the fast and noodly bass playing) as well as the more pop-oriented side of anarcho I associate with Zounds and Hagar the Womb. The mix of styles keeps things interesting, portioning out bits that are more raging, more instrospective, or more melodic without spending too much time in any particular groove. Toxic Waste attacks whatever mode they’re playing in with energy and passion. Their playing feels loose and Crass-like, organic and alive, and the recordings are clear and punchy, perfectly underproduced. Fans of vintage anarcho punk can’t go wrong with this record.
Candy Apple: Sweet Dreams of Violence 12” (Convulse Records) I’ve been keeping an eye on Denver’s Convulse Records for a while, but when this LP from Candy Apple showed up, the eye-catching artwork demanded closer inspection. I’m a sucker for graphics that combine high art pretension with punk thuggery (see also: most of Gag’s artwork, but particularly the This Punk Shit Is Cool But I Hope I Am Rob Zombie When I Am 28 12”), and Sweet Dreams of Violence nails that vibe (even moreso on the additional photos on the back cover and insert). As for the music, the first part of the record will sound familiar to anyone who has followed the Denver hardcore scene over the past several years. A lot of recent bands from Denver, Candy Apple included, combine elements of early 80s USHC and late 80s NYHC with a hint of black metal and a production style that resembles blown-out 4-track experimenters like early Royal Trux and the Dead C. It’s a unique and instantly identifiable sound and that’s the vibe for the first few tracks of Sweet Dreams of Violence. But then the record takes a turn. From the third track forward, Candy Apple works in grungy noise rock riffs that remind me of Nirvana’s Bleach and the less melodic parts of Dinosaur Jr’s You’re Living All Over Me. While the hardcore stuff is good, this material is even more exciting, with great riffs that are a perfect match for Candy Apple’s lo-fi, blown-out production. If your tastes span both hardcore and noise rock, I recommend giving Candy Apple a shot.
Zodiak: S/T 7” (Distort Reality Records) After a flexi and a split 7”, Tokyo’s Zodiak gives us their debut stand-alone release on the perfect US label for them, Distort Reality Records. In case you missed those earlier Zodiak releases (which, I believe, were all recorded at the same session as the four tracks that appear here), Zodiak is part of their country’s long tradition of abrasive, exciting hardcore bands. The guitar sound is an ear-piercing squeal that it almost hurts to listen to, like they heard the most abrasive Disorder recordings and thought to themselves, “this is cool, but it could use even more treble.” Rather than manic pogo beats, Zodiak’s rhythms are heavier and groovier; while I’m sure there are Japanese bands I could compare them to (like maybe Kuro?), it really reminds me of North American bands like S.H.I.T. and Blazing Eye, the latter of which also bears some similarity to Zodiak in the vocal department. There are a lot of bands working in this vein but one thing that separates Zodiak from the pack is that it doesn’t feel so on the nose. One thing that initially attracted me to Japanese hardcore is that it didn’t seem like it was made for Western consumption… the lyrics were full of idioms I didn’t understand, and the graphics and design felt like they were referencing conventions I didn’t know about. Zodiak gives me that same feeling with their inscrutable lyrics and their colorful, collage-style artwork. If you’re looking for that sense of wonder rather than just another record that sounds like Discharge or Confuse, this EP is for you.
Mindkiller: S/T 7” (Distort Reality Records) Distort Reality brings us the debut 7” from Mindkiller, a new band featuring people who used to be in Khiis, whom you might remember from their releases on cool labels we like here at Sorry State like Distort Reality, Discos Enfermos, and La Vida Es Un Mus. I don’t know how much of Khiis’s membership carried over to Mindkiller, but the sound is similar and if you like Khiis, this is a no-brainer. The sound is heavy and metallic yet catchy and memorable, sitting somewhere between Death Side’s Wasted Dream and the Cro-Mags Age of Quarrel, though the shouted vocals and penchant for moshable mid-paced parts also reminds me of Torso (a band I also referenced when describing Khiis). Just as Torso takes Totalitär-inspired d-beat and makes it palatable to the straight edge crowd, Mindkiller takes the triumphant gallop of Burning Spirits hardcore and infuses it with the best elements of American hardcore.
Neighborhood Brats: Confines of Life 12” (Dirt Cult) Like the Erik Nervous album I also wrote about this week, Confines of Life is a new record from a band I’ve liked for a long time (this is Neighborhood Brats’ third full-length) that sits in that zone where hardcore, punk, and garage rock overlap. However, Neighborhood Brats have a different recipe. Where Erik Nervous’s music is grounded in the Dickies’ and Devo’s tightly wound rhythms, Neighborhood Brats foregrounds influences from melodic SoCal hardcore (everything from the Adolescents up to Night Birds (and yes I’m aware Night Birds are from New Jersey)) and anthemic ’77 UK punk. It’s the latter element of their sound that shapes my favorite tracks on Confines of Life. Check out “Miss America Pageant,” which starts with a classic-sounding riff that would make Derwood from Generation X proud, or “Transitional Housing,” which borrows the rock-and-roll swagger of my favorite UK Subs tracks and climaxes in a chorus that is straight up transcendent. Moments like this shine even brighter because Confines of Life is such a diverse record, with plenty of ripping hardcore and bouncy, melodic surf alongside the anthemic punk. And then there are the lyrics, which examine contemporary American social issues with the bluntness and clarity you want from punk rock. I know some people don’t have a taste for this kind of melodic hardcore, and that’s fine, but if you like this style, you’re fucking up if you sleep on Confines of Life.
Razorblades & Aspirin #12 zine The latest issue of Razorblades & Aspirin is out, and if you aren’t hip to it yet, wake the fuck up! Razorblades & Aspirin is a zine for people who love punk old and new (there’s a LOT of overlap in coverage with the stuff we carry and write about at Sorry State), and its idiosyncrasies include a full color, full bleed print job that is uncommon in the world of punk zines and a heavy focus on photographers, photography, and the visual culture of punk. I love that Mike at Razorblades & Aspirin remains engaged with current punk (he’s based a few hours away in Richmond, VA and it’s always cool to see his incredible photos of shows I was at), but the pandemic times we’re in demanded a heavier focus on old stuff for this issue (even so, he squeezes in interviews with several current bands and labels and a lengthy feature on how punk record stores are navigating the pandemic). I love the interviews with legendary LA punk photographer Ed Colver and Brian Ray Turcotte of Fucked Up & Photocopied, and there’s the now-familiar R&A mix of reviews, interviews with photographers, and stunning photography. Odds are that if you’re a Sorry State newsletter subscriber, you should be a Razorblades & Aspirin reader too.
Canal Irreal: S/T 12” (Beach Impediment Records) When I first listened to the preview track on Beach Impediment’s Bandcamp site, I knew nothing about Canal Irreal. I don’t think I’d ever heard their name before. Going in with no expectations, I was blown away. I had to stop and be like “what the fuck IS this?” and it seriously bummed me out when I saw it was the only track that was streaming. (It’s now streaming in full and on streaming services too, so you won’t encounter this problem.) When I investigated further, I realized this band rules so much because they’re a group full of ringers. First up, there is guitarist Scott Plant, one of my favorite current musicians in the world. I first fell in love with Scott’s music through his old band, Civic Progress. (If you aren’t familiar, check out their Petrolem Man EP on YouTube. And, word to the wise, I just checked Discogs and Civic Progress’s EPs are officially dollar bin rippers.) Civic Progress played the 80s USHC-influenced style that was popular at the time (2006-7), but set themselves apart with a style that had a whiff of post-punk and Scott’s lyrics, which were already revealing the astute social analysis, elegant wordsmithery, and occasional Doc Dart-esque uncomfortable bluntness that remain hallmarks of his unique voice. (Sorry for all the parentheses. I am having a lot of parenthetical thoughts. I’m just going to go with it. Since we’re in a parenthetical right now anyway, I might as well mention two other lyricists who are stylistically similar to Scott and just as good: Nathan Ward from Knowso, because their new record also arrived this week and won by a hair’s breadth in the competition for my heart that is Sorry State’s Record of the Week, and Rich Ivey from ISS, because he’s fucking family, like H2o and Madball or some shit. But back to Scott Plant…) Civic Progress was based in St. Louis, but in the late 00s Scott moved to Chicago, which is when I got into the Scott Plant business for a brief but exciting moment. Scott’s new bands in Chicago were Manipulation (Sorry State Records numbers 28 and 54, the former of which is still in stock) and Broken Prayer (Sorry State Records numbers 52 and 71, both of which are still in stock and the former of which is housed in a jacket, screen printed by moi, whose quality I no longer stand behind). Having revealed myself as an incompetent at some point in this space of time, Scott soon set sail for greener label pastures. Broken Prayer morphed into Droid’s Blood (whose two vinyl releases are in stock at Sorry State) and even a solo electronic 10” lathe cut under his own name (It was limited as fuck yet as of this writing our inventory says we still have one copy). I’m throwing a lot of names at you here, but I also want to emphasize that through each of those projects, Scott’s music has become more ambitious, more original, and more exciting. Also, like a lot of musical geniuses, Scott has grown interested in synthesizers. Broken Prayer and Droid’s Blood featured synths (my newly Swedish friend Liz Panella played some of them in Broken Prayer, while Scott took over in Droid’s Blood) and also flirted with the harsh yet evocative textures of power electronics, while Scott’s work under his own name is less noisy and more rhythmic. Which brings us roughly to today, wherein I’m telling you that Scott Plant HAS RETURNED TO THE STRINGED INSTRUMENT! (AND IT IS GLORIOUS!) And that’s what the fuck you hear in Canal Irreal. I know nothing about Canal Irreal’s inner workings (I didn’t even know they were a band until a few days ago), but these songs are so strewn with Scott Plant’s musical fingerprints I would be surprised if someone informed me he “just played guitar.” Whatever Scott Plant’s creative role, someone in this band knows how to write a mother fucking punk song, and these energetic and hooky tracks are great ones, with one foot foot in hardcore, one foot in UK post-punk, and a healthy appreciation for classic Chicago punk with huge hooks like Naked Raygun and the Effigies. (Sound familiar? If not, you might want to re-read what I wrote about Civic Progress near the top of this lengthy description. And it’s about to get lengthier, motherfuckers, because SCOTT PLANT IS ONLY ONE FOURTH OF THIS BAND!) As member #2 in this lineup (which I did not plan before I started writing and am here emphasizing is in no particular order) we have MARTIN FUCKING SORRONDEGUY. Yes, Martin from Los Crudos and Limp Wrist, though if you’ve even attempted to read this entire description you are the type of person who almost certainly has a lesser-known Martin project that is even closer to your heart. (I’m going to go with Needles (about whom I’m going to resist the urge to rhapsodize right now), though there are no wrong answers.) I’m going to assume that Scott Plant doesn’t write any of the lyrics in Canal Irreal and say that, if you’re going to bump Scott off lyric writing duty, you better know what the fuck you’re doing, but this is not an issue because Martin is one of the greatest lyricists in the entire history of punk. I can only provide limited insight into this given that my command of Spanish is minimal (though Martin’s writing in English hints at what us poor monolinguals are missing), but suffice to say that, based in no small part on his lyrics, Martin is perhaps the single most important punk of the post-1990 era. (Though Martin is one of those people who seems so good at everything that his photography, work as a punk historian and archivist, graphic design, films, and more things I’m sure I’m forgetting are just as important to mention.) Where were we? Oh yeah, we’re halfway through the list of members. Fortunately for you, I am less familiar with the work of bassist Fernando Anteliz and drummer Lupe Garza, but they prove themselves to be Scott and Martin’s musical peers here, playing no small part in generating that perfect combination of hardcore punk and post-punk that blew me away on my first listen. I don’t have a way to wrap this up, so I’ll say that hopefully you stopped reading by now to devote your attention to listening to this record. If that’s the case, when you buy the vinyl, I hope you buy it from Sorry State. I already got my copy so I am cool with selling the rest of them, but I will experience a twinge of sadness when it is no longer in stock. If you are still reading this and haven’t checked out the record, I imagine you must be in some kind of situation where you can read this, but cannot listen stream the record Perhaps you are in the waiting area at the DMV and you do not have any headphones. Or maybe you’re on a camping trip and, before you got out of cellular range, you saved this piece of writing to some sort of app or service that allows you to access it when you’re offline. If you’re the person on the camping trip, you’re probably great at planning and you already made yourself a note to check out the Canal Irreal album. If you are not the person on the camping trip, this should serve as a reminder that you should make said note and put it somewhere you will see it. If you’re in a pinch you can write it on your hand. And, since no one is reading this anyway, I’ll also apologize to the people I mentioned if any of the information herein is erroneous. I’m just a fan with no fact checking department doing my best.
Antidote: Thou Shalt Not Kill 12” (Radio Raheem Records) I’ve been listening to Antidote’s Thou Shalt Not Kill EP for at least twenty years now, and this reissue has significantly increased my understanding and appreciation of this all-time hardcore classic. If you’ll indulge me in a bit of reminiscing, I’m pretty sure the first time I heard an Antidote song was on Redemption 87’s self-titled album, which came out in 1996 and practically lived on my turntable for my last couple years of high school. That album featured a cover of “Something Must Be Done.” I didn’t know it was a cover at the time; I just knew it was my favorite song on the record. A few years later, once the Internet made researching 80s hardcore much easier, I heard Thou Shalt Not Kill and realized why that song stood out so much from the others on the Redemption 87 album. Eventually I found a bootleg LP that compiled Thou Shalt Not Kill, the Abused’s Loud and Clear EP, the Mob’s first EP Upset the System, and Urban Waste’s self-titled EP. To me, that bootleg LP is the sound of New York Hardcore, or at least my favorite iteration of New York hardcore. While I love all four records deeply, it was a toss-up whether I liked Antidote or the Abused best, and it is wild that Radio Raheem has now given the world definitive reissues of both records. I’ve listened to this EP hundreds of times over the years and still know all the words, but I never learned much more about Antidote. Radio Raheem’s reissue fills a lot of gaps in my knowledge, the most exciting of which is the wealth of material here other than that classic EP, which is also compiled. First up is a batch of 1982 demo tracks that are just killer. They showcase a very different band than Thou Shalt Not Kill. While the lineup is mostly the same and they play several of the same songs, the band’s sound hasn’t come together yet, nor has Louie Rivera’s trademark vocal style (which surely must have influenced Ray Cappo profoundly, among many others). Not having those trademark elements of Thou Shalt Not Kill is a minus, but a big plus is that, with the most distinctive elements of Antidote’s sound absent, it puts more focus on how great these songs are. The 1982 demo tracks sound like classic SoCal hardcore to me: energetic, tuneful, and almost poppy. Some moments bear an uncanny resemblance to the first Bad Religion album. There’s even a big, Naked Raygun-style “whoa” part to “Die At War” that they nixed for the Thou Shalt Not Kill version, and it’s awesome. These 1982 demos are fucking essential in my book, but wait… there’s more! The b-side of the LP is a live CBGB set engineered by Jerry Williams (who also engineered Thou Shalt Not Kill) featuring even more unreleased songs. The live set splits the difference between the more metallic and melodic material, but it’s hardly redundant, especially given the great fidelity. The music on this record is essential for anyone who loves early 80s NYHC, and this reissue also features Radio Raheem’s usual best-in-the-game packaging, including a huge booklet, sticker, and the usual meticulous graphic design and printing. If your collection is anything like mine, you already own multiple versions of Thou Shalt Not Kill, but you don’t want to miss what Radio Raheem’s version brings to the table.
Military Mind: Hardcore 2021 cassette (self-released) Military Mind is the latest hardcore powerhouse to emerge from Canada, this time from the fertile western Canada scene that also includes bands like Bootlicker, Chain Whip, Headcheese, and the Slow Death Records roster. However, if you gave me a blind taste test without telling me anything about Military Mind, I would have assumed they’re the hot new band from Pittsburgh. Their approach is like White Stains and Loose Nukes, rooted in 80s USHC (almost to the point of being an homage), but with a sense of danger, excitement, and immediacy that reassures you punk is happening right now and that it’s not just cosplay. Five tracks, about six minutes, and it’ll leave fuckin’ skid marks on your tape deck. Get it.
Execution: Silently It Grows 7” (Hardcore Victim) Silently It Grows is the fourth release from this hardcore band from Melbourne Australia, following 2018’s Flags of Convenience 7” and a couple of cassette releases. I haven’t heard any of those releases, so I came to Silently It Grows fresh, perhaps expecting something rooted in noise punk given the cover art. That’s an influence, but Silently It Grows is so more than just a solid noise punk record… it’s a fucking beast. Execution reminds me of Public Acid in that they have a sinister, dangerous edge to their music while also being tough and hardcore, but given their obvious grounding in classics like Confuse and Gai (as well as nasty Italian hardcore like Wretched and Negazione), it seems like they’re more willing to lean into the abrasive and chaotic elements of their sound. The hot track for me is “Fatal Shores,” and if you’ve spent as much time as I have jamming Public Acid’s Condemnation EP, I encourage you to give it a listen as it has a similar spirit to that record. Not that “Fatal Shores” is the only great song… the title track is a banger too. I don’t know how hip American punks are to Execution yet, but this record is a fucking scorcher.
Distant Fear: A Reminder of Death 7” (Wrought Material) Black metal does not lend itself to the 7” format, but New Zealand’s Distant Fear makes it work. Much of my favorite black metal feels cinematic in scope, with a wide-screen sensibility that conjures vast, open (snow-covered) landscapes. Distant Fear generates this sensibility not through the hypnotic repetitiveness that some bands use, but through an eclectic yet seamless approach to style. These two songs feature parts that incorporate noise / power electronics, Bathory/Venom style punky savagery, Amebix-y slow boil, triumphant viking metal, and a little of that classic 90s-style Norwegian grandiosity. Even more impressive, it does this in a way that doesn’t appear schizophrenic, but as almost… cosmopolitan? I don’t know, they just fucking make it work. This release features beautiful packaging too, including a screen printed jacket, hand-stamped labels, and an obi strip. Like just about anything from New Zealand, it’s super expensive, but I get an extra bit of excitement when I get a record from that fascinating little corner of the world. Maybe this isn’t Sorry State’s normal thing, but I’ve listened to this a ton and think it rules; maybe you will too.
Predator: Spiral Unfolds 12" (Total Punk Records) Mere months after issuing the incredible new GG King album (note: back in stock at Sorry State if you missed out the first time), Total Punk Records returns to Atlanta’s punk scene for the latest album from the long-running band Predator. Predator’s first 7” came out in 2009 and their first LP all the way back in 2011; they’ve been at this for a while, and Spiral Unfolds feels like the culmination of everything they’ve done up to this point. If you asked me to describe Atlanta’s garage-punk scene I would almost certainly mention that the bands have a power-pop edge to their sound. This is true of well-known bands like the Carbonas, GG King, Gentlemen Jesse, and Beat Beat Beat (all of whom, if I’m not mistaken, have shared members with Predator), but despite not having that classic power-pop element to their sound (at least in this current iteration), Predator is instantly identifiable as an Atlanta band. Their angular rhythms, thick guitar sound, catchy riffs, and sung vocals (albeit in a robotic monotone) remind me of Atlanta bands like Wymyn’s Prysyn and Uniform, but Predator is just Predator. In a lot of ways they’re like the ultimate Atlanta garage-punk band, jettisoning the easy to like aspects of those bigger bands and leaning into the idiosyncrasies. Spiral Unfolds… fuck, man. Just like GG King’s last LP, Remain Intact, this latest record sounds like the band is throwing off any reservations or limitations and attempting to make the record of their fucking lives. And they nail it. This is a great punk album, likely one of the best of the year, and essential if you follow whatever you call this strain of nervy, catchy punk.
Mundo Primitivo: Paisaje Interior cassette (Static Shock Records) Paisaje Interior is the debut release from this new band on Static Shock, one of our favorite labels here at Sorry State. While Mundo Primitivo is based in Australia, their singer is from Colombia and sang for the band Abuso, and to my ears Mundo Primitivo has more in common with the raw and urgent punk that’s been coming out of Colombia for the past several years than the more considered and cosmopolitan Australian hardcore scene. What’s it sound like? Raw fucking hardcore punk with elements from catchier punk and a little goth. The tape starts with an instrumental track whose riff sounds suspiciously like Fucked Up’s song “Generation” (it’s a great fucking riff, why not?) then segues into several tracks of killer, catchy punk. It’s hardcore, but with a sense of drive and bounce rather than an emphasis on heaviness or brutality. The songs feel unique from one another, not just iterating the same ideas and motifs again and again. This culminates on the tape’s last track, “Medium,” which has a spookier, more spacious goth sound that reminds me of Kurraka. The songs are superb and I love the gritty recording, killer artwork, and that there’s a solid 12” EP worth of music here. One of the strongest demos we’ve seen in 2021 so far.
HHH: Solidhardcore 12” (Discos Enfermos) Spain’s Discos Enfermos brings us this Spanish hardcore band’s 1985 cassette-only release on a great-looking new vinyl version. I’m going to give it to you straight on this one and list some of my observations about this record:
- It sounds like shit.
- The band plays really sloppy.
- This recording has perhaps the worst bass tone I’ve ever heard in my life.
- The influences are obvious (Discharge and G.B.H.).
- I mean it really sounds like shit. The drums and bass are super muffled and the guitar tone is so biting it hurts your teeth.
- There appear to be problems with the source material as there are occasional drop-outs.
If these are pros to you, buy this record. If they are cons, consider one of the thousands of other records we carry here at Sorry State. But I should tell you that you also miss out on a pretty cool poster insert.
Self-Inflict: demo cassette (Not for the Weak Records) Virginia’s Not for the Weak Records brings us the demo tape from this new Virginia band, and it’s of a piece with that state’s long line of tough-sounding, traditionalist hardcore bands. Self-Inflict has the driving, locked-in sound I associate with Negative Approach’s Tied Down LP or later bands that took cues from that record, like Dead Stop or Punch in the Face. It’s no-nonsense stuff that alternates between fist-pumping rhythms and heavier grooves that make you want to hurt someone. The recording is clear, bright, and heavy without sounding too slick or modern, and if you are a fan of this strain of tough, 80s-inspired hardcore, you’re gonna love it.
Deficit: Staggering Toward False Light cassette (Not for the Weak Records) Not for the Weak Records brings us another tape from a new Virginia band; this time it’s Virginia Beach’s Deficit, a one-person project helmed by Ben Kohler, the drummer for Street Weapon. While the Self-Inflict tape that Not for the Weak put out at the same time has a brawny, driving sound, Deficit is rawer, noisier, and more unhinged. I’d place Deficit in the tradition of bands like YDI, Urban Waste, and United Blood era Agnostic Front. While these bands were heavy and tough-sounding, there was a streak of added danger, like they would not only want to fight you, but there’s a distinct possibility that during that fight they would stab you with a shiv hidden in their boot. If you like it nasty, this one’s for you.
Mini Skirt: Casino 12” (Erste Theke Tonträger) This Australian band has been kicking around for a few years now, releasing a few EPs, and Germany’s Erste Theke Tonträger has brought us their much-anticipated debut album. Well, it wasn’t anticipated by me in particular since I hadn’t heard Mini Skirt before I checked out Casino, but man this is a killer record. When I first listened to it, the thing that jumped out was how much it sounds like Eddy Current Suppression Ring. ECSR is one of my favorite bands of the last couple of decades, and they have this distinct way of playing… upbeat, but with a nonchalant, behind the beat groove that sounds like the Stooges’ Fun House if they never discovered heroin and instead just smoked weed and hung out on the beach. Well, at least that way of playing was unique to ECSR before I heard Mini Skirt, because Mini Skirt does pretty much the same thing and it sounds just as great. Mini Skirt’s vocal approach differs from ECSR, though. Mini Skirt’s singer has a gruff bellow that’s more like the Cosmic Psychos. (Sorry for another Australian band comparison… it’s kind of unavoidable since the singer has such a heavy accent.) The lyrics are politically aware and thought-provoking, which is important because Mini Skirt’s spacious sound gives a lot of room for the singer to do his thing. If anything I’ve mentioned above piques your interest, give Casino a peek… it’s won me over.
Wipers: Tour ’84 12” (Jackpot Records) You might have missed it because it came out this past Friday, the day before Record Store Day, but Jackpot just reissued the Wipers’ Tour ’84 album. These recordings originally came out as a very limited cassette on Greg Sage’s Trap Records, then were released as an LP on Enigma Records in 1985 (that version just features the Wipers’ logo on the cover, so sometimes this album is also referred to as self-titled). While Restless / Enigma released the Wipers’ next few albums, they had released none of the band’s previous three records, which most fans regard as the most essential Wipers records. Since Restless / Enigma was a bigger label, for a long time I saw copies of this record in used bins way more often than the Wipers’ actual first three albums. I wonder how many people picked up Tour ’84 as their first Wipers record, particularly after Kurt Cobain repped the band? I think this album is great, but it shows a different side of the band than the first three albums (which, thanks to various reissues and streaming, are now easily available). Those three albums have a sense of precision that isn’t as present here. The early recordings aren’t super polished, but they feel very locked in and precisely performed. By contrast, these live recordings find the band in a looser, more visceral mode. I love the albums, but I love this side of the band too. I think I’ve read that Greg Sage is a big Jimi Hendrix fan, and you hear that on these live versions. The fidelity is great (it says Greg Sage mixed them, so they must be multi-track recordings), and even better there are three songs that weren’t on any of the Wipers’ studio albums. They’re pretty cool and worth hearing, though, “Moon Rider” bears more than a passing resemblance to “Romeo.” This no-frills reissue doesn’t even have an insert, but it’s on pretty pink vinyl and it sounds great. You’ll want the first three Wipers albums before you pick this up, but if you’ve digested those, Tour ’84 is an essential piece of the Wipers puzzle.
Paranoid: Kind of Noise 12” (Viral Age Records) Paranoid’s Kind of Noise 7” came out as a tiny, 250-copy edition back in 2019. Of course that release sold out immediately, so Viral Age Records from the UK has stepped in and reissued it as a one-sided 12” with the two tracks from Paranoid’s Kaos flexi, which seems even harder to find. If you’re wondering what era of Paranoid this comes from, that’s a kind of complicated question. Kind of Noise came out in 2019, after Heavy Mental Fuck-up! and Cover of the Month found the band moving toward a metal / rock-influenced sound a la Venom. However, Kind of Noise was full-on d-beat, sounding like Paranoid was taking inspiration from noisy Japanese bands like Zyanose and D-Clone. I really liked Kind of Noise when it came out, and this expanded 12” version is even better. In addition to the extra songs, the packaging gets some nice upgrades including a beautiful obi, a glossy jacket, and a heavy PVC sleeve. If you’re missing these gems from deep in Paranoid’s discography, I’d jump on this release while you can.
Sublevacion: S/T 7” (Discos Enfermos) Discos Enfermos brings us the debut release from this Barcelona band. My first thought when I listened to this record was “man, this sounds old as hell.” I mean that in the best way possible. There is very little here to tip you off that this wasn’t recorded in the early 80s… no modern production touches, no straight edge-y breakdowns, no tips of the hat to bands that no one actually fucking knew about in the early 80s… just raw, furious hardcore punk. Like a lot of my favorite 80s hardcore, Sublevacion’s sound is rooted in Discharge and the Exploited. It’s easy to sound like a flattened-out version of what those bands did, but Sublevacion’s loose playing style and grainy, 4-track-style production give this record a lot of personality. I love the way the vocals clip on the loudest and most passionate parts, which gives the songs some extra dynamism. While I’m sure old hardcore nerds will love Sublevacion, the band’s direct and passionate sound doesn’t require a PhD in Hardcore Archaeology to appreciate.
Maladia: Sacred Fires 12” (La Vida Es Un Mus) Sacred Fires is the first vinyl release from this London band. There are several threads that run through La Vida Es Un Mus’s catalog, and Sacred Fires is of a piece with LVEUM alumni like Permission, No, Subdued, and maybe even Irreal and S.H.I.T. This is the dark shit, the nightmare music. The color is black, so what you look for are the textures and the shades. Maladia can be spooky, terrifying, eerie, sinister, and a bunch of other words that wouldn’t be out of place on a Facebook page promoting a goth night. But they’re also hardcore, meaning that they play with the heaviness and ferocity of bands like Rudimentary Peni and Crass. These five short tracks are a densely packed epic journey, long on detail but short on time to process it. I’m a sucker for these moves, and Maladia nails them.
Leopardo: Malcantone 12” (Feel It) Feel It Records digs into the worldwide underground again, sifting out Switzerland’s Leopardo from the silt. Aside from some Germanic accents, Leopardo doesn’t sync up with my limited knowledge of Swiss music (i.e. they don’t sound anything like Celtic Frost or Kleenex). Instead, they sound like they could have come straight from early 80s New Zealand. Like my favorite Kiwi pop, Malcantone seems grounded in the Velvet Underground’s subversive pop music, is aggressively eclectic (one track here is a solo banjo instrumental), heavily layered, and occasionally might get a little too saccharine for some tastes. Aside from the Velvets, I feel a noticeable Beatles influence coming through in parts of Malcantone, particularly the twee psych elements of Sgt. Pepper’s. It’s a similar mix of styles as the most 60s-influenced contemporary Australian bands, particularly Parsnip and Hierophants, and if you’re a fan of those records, you’ll love Leopardo. The packaging here is also up to Feel It’s usual high standard, with a beautiful gatefold jacket and detail-oriented design that provides enriching 3-dimensional accompaniment to Leopardo’s rich sonic world-building.
Sycophant: Innate Control cassette (self-released) Innate Control is the first release by this new hardcore band from Phoenix, Arizona. It sounds like Sycophant has spent plenty of time studying the Totalitär classics, but they don’t come off as a worship band, reaching further back to Discharge for influence (see “Black Smoke,” which they build around a “Protest and Survive” groove) or dropping in the odd wicked breakdown (“Warzone Mentality”). Sycophant draws from the same well of influences as recent Totalitär-inspired bands like Nervous SS, Scarecrow, and maybe even the Destruct and Lethal Means, and their song and riff-writing skills are top notch. Innate Control has a powerful recording, too, courtesy of J from Gay Kiss. With ten full tracks, this tape is longer and meatier than most 12”s these days, so if this is your style, jump on it!
Suurkaupungin Haitat: S/T 12" (Svart Records) Compilation of rare cassettes, originally released between 1979 and 1982, from this obscure Finnish punk band. I had never heard of Suurkaupungin Haitat before and (according to Discogs, at least), they didn’t have any vinyl releases before this new release on Svart Records, the chief archivists of Finnish music of many stripes. Suurkaupungin Haitat’s cassettes are so obscure they’re not even listed on Discogs, and I imagine were only distributed through small, local networks. Suurkaupungin Haitat isn’t the second coming of the Sex Pistols or anything, but I am loving this record and I’m stoked it exists. The songs are punky, but don’t stick to a particular style. Some sound like they’re grounded more in proto-punk (like the Velvet Underground’s more rockin’ songs or the early Stooges), while others have a poppier edge that puts them more in line with the Buzzcocks-influenced end of second-wave UK punk. Suurkaupungin Haitat reminds me of Swell Maps too, particularly given the fidelity; most of these tracks sound like single-mic room recordings. The recordings aren’t distractingly primitive, though; you can hear every instrument clearly and the drums and bass sound great. While I don’t think any of these tracks are masterpieces, all of them are enjoyable, and sometimes quite strong. The packaging is excellent too, including an insert with photos, ephemera, and an interview with the band (though it’s in Finnish so I can’t read any of it). This is a niche item, particularly given the import price tag, but I’m right in this target market.
Lost Sounds: Rats Brains and Microchips 12” (FDH Records) A few years ago FDH reissued Lost Sounds’s Black Wave album, and now they’ve done the same for Rats Brains and Microchips, my favorite Lost Sounds album. In case you’re unfamiliar, Lost Sounds featured Jay Reatard and Alicjia Trout from River City Tanlines. While those are reasons enough for the band to warrant your interest, they also had a schtick; they described themselves as “black wave,” which I took to mean they were combining new wave and black metal (I remember reading interviews with them where they talked about how they were into the 90s Norwegian black metal scene). One reason I always liked Rats Brains is because they lean into the concept harder on this record, and it sounds to me like they were self-consciously trying to incorporate influences from Norwegian black metal into their music. This was years before GG King seamlessly blended garage-punk and gloomy black metal, and the seams show more here. The songs that incorporate those elements sound choppy; the title track is a real odyssey that moves between several very different sections. This isn’t a complaint, by the way; those songs (the title track, “Tronic Graveyard,” “Dreaming of Bleeding”) are my favorites. They just sound fucking weird, and that’s accentuated by the grainy, abrasive production. The more straightforward, punkier songs are excellent too. This is Jay Reatard we’re talking about it here, and even though he was a few years from Blood Visions (one of the indisputably classic punk records of this millennium), the guy still had a knack for writing great hooks and songs. While FDH’s version is just a straight repress without the contextual information that accompanies many reissues these days, it adds an unreleased (instrumental) track.
The Smog: First Time Last Chance 7” (Episode Sounds) We last heard from Japan’s the Smog when they released a single on California’s Going Underground Records last year, now they’re back with a new single on the excellent Japanese label Episode Sounds. As I said when I wrote about their last single, I love the Smog’s sound. They’re like a Japanese version of the Marked Men, with a similar knack for alternating between jittery and melancholic modes that never skimp on big, melodic hooks. This single is a testament to how important design, packaging, and presentation can be to a record’s impact, though. When I listened to the digital version of this EP, I remember thinking that it was cool but kind of short. When I got the physical version, though, the packaging blew me away. It’s housed in a uniquely designed fold-out sleeve with beautiful two-color printing and liberal use of hand stamping on both the jacket and the center labels. It’s such a beautiful thing to look over that it made me listen to the songs more closely, and that made me appreciate them a lot more. They’re great songs, particularly the b-side. If you’re one of us who geeks out about the packaging on old UK punk singles that seemed so thought out and creatively executed, this scratches that same itch.
Chubby and the Gang: Lightning Don’t Strike Twice 7” (Partisan Records) Latest single from this UK band that seems to be blowing up. In case you haven’t been keeping up with Chubby’s gang, the group features familiar faces from London’s NWOBHC scene, but they’re not a hardcore band. They’re a pop band, but they play like a hardcore band. That’s but one way in which they remind me of Fucked Up; Chubby and the Gang sound to me like that period when Fucked Up seemed to have a real Undertones fixation, but if you swapped out the Undertones with Wilko Johnson and Dr. Feelgood. It’s anthemic shit. So much so that it’s started to catch on outside the hardcore scene. Pitchfork put the album on their Best of 2020 list and after starting out on Static Shock Records (a familiar name to Sorry State regulars) they’ve moved up to Partisan Records, home of Idles and Fontaines D.C., whose music I’m not familiar with but seem like proper indie bands to me. Anyway, you get an anthem in the band’s usual style on the a-side, but on the b-side we have a loungy track that isn’t punk at all. Here Chubby & the Gang don’t play like a hardcore band; they show a different side of the band, sort of like how the Buzzcocks’ “Everybody’s Happy Nowadays” single showcased their more Can-informed material on the b-side. Will the hipsters appreciate it or is this just for the punk nerds?
Venganza: La Fiera 7” (Discos Enfermos) La Fiera is the latest 4-song EP by this long-running band from Saragossa, Spain. I’m not familiar with Venganza’s earlier material, but this is some ripping hardcore punk. Venganza isn’t too on the nose with any style. They remind me of Vaaska in that they have a fast, energetic sound that’s tough, but also integrates the anthemic quality of a lot of 80s Spanish punk. The production is full and clear without sounding too modern or too retro, and every song starts with a killer hardcore punk riff and builds to a catchy, chanted chorus. It’s a formula that’s as old as punk itself (older, really), but Venganza doesn’t feel like they’re rehashing a formula, but summoning the true punk spirit. I don’t see Venganza achieving flavor of the week status anytime soon, but those of you who are always down for solid international hardcore punk that hits all the right political and aesthetic notes will enjoy La Fiera.
Qlowski: Quale Futuro? 12” (Feel It Records) Quale Futuro? is the debut album from London’s Qlowski, and it’s a perfect fit with the thoughtful, progressive punk Feel It Records has been putting into the world. Qlowski’s sound is tough to pin down. They have two vocalists, each of whom has a distinctive texture and timbre, and the mix of instruments varies from track to track as well, with some songs centered on synth melodies, some around guitar, and some where the two instruments erupt simultaneously. While I’m sure there are several circa-1980 post-punk bands you could compare them to, they don’t sound like a post-punk revival band. Like their underrated London buddies Sauna Youth (whose Lindsay Corstorphine produced this album), Qlowski sounds impeccably modern, informed by the classics (how couldn’t you be in this age of information overload), but bent on pushing forward with fresh sounds and approaches. Another thing that strikes me about Quale Futuro? is how fully realized a record it is. It looks like Qlowski has been a band for at leave five years, and Quale Futuro? has a developed voice, but it also has a concept that ties together the music and packaging. The songs’ lyrics seem focused on the mundane struggles of modern metropolitan life, and the question in the record’s title contrasts this bleak existence with a future that is not only uncertain, but perhaps even worse than what we have now. This idea gets interrogated further in the zine that accompanies the record, which collects work from many artists and writers, all of which relates to that central theme. We live in a world where Bandcamp feeds and Spotify algorithms usher us onto the next thing, but Quale Futuro? is an album that rewards—even demands—your sustained attention.
Fugitive Bubble: No Outside cassette (Impotent Fetus) We carried a tape from Fugitive Bubble a while back and now they’re back with another, also on the Impotent Fetus label, which is an imprint of the Stucco Label that focuses on left-of-center punk rather than straightforward hardcore. While Fugitive Bubble isn’t as weird as the Pilgrim Screw tape we wrote about a few weeks ago, it’s a long way from straightforward hardcore. I hear similarities to the quirkier end of early west coast punk… bands like the Deadbeats and Suburban Lawns. Fugitive Bubble’s rhythms are fast and angular, the vocalists yelp out Devo-inspired melodies, and while it feels defiantly left of center, it’s also catchy as hell. I don’t think it would be inaccurate to label No Outside egg punk, but Fugitive Bubble sounds less like they’re obsessed with the Coneheads and more like they have a healthy appreciation for the weird punk classics. Fugitive Bubble seems like they’re full of ideas and they’ve developed a unique and interesting voice with No Outside, so I hope we hear more from them… maybe even on vinyl next time?
Asocial Terror Fabrication: Discography cassette (Doomed to Extinction Records) Just like the title says, this cassette collects the entire discography from this Japanese crust / grind band who started in 2005 and, as far as I know, is still going today. I’m not sure I’d heard of Asocial Terror Fabrication before, but that’s not surprising given that I don’t follow the grind or modern metallic crust scenes closely. This tape is pretty cool, though. Assuming the releases appear here in chronological order, Asocial Terror Fabrication started as a straightforward Doom / E.N.T.-style metallic crust band. Their take on the style is straightforward, but they have that Japanese way of taking the most distinctive elements and dialing them all to maximum intensity. After a few tracks, though, Asocial Terror Fabrication incorporates grind elements into their sound (without abandoning the crust), and this extra variety takes things up a notch. Grind can be a dirty word in some circles, but the grind elements ATF employs are lifted almost verbatim from From Enslavement to Obliteration. Both the blast beat parts and the sludgier breakdowns are very different rhythmically than the driving crust parts, and the way ATF bounces between those grooves keeps this exciting through a pretty hefty runtime.
Sarin Reaper: demo cassette (Dirtbag Distro Tapes) Four tracks of raw, noisy, and nasty metallic punk from Kansas City. There are a lot of things I like about this tape. First, it’s just disgusting. It has a particular ugliness that sounds to me like a cross-breeding of G.I.S.M. and an old Finnish death metal demo. The recording is super raw and the mix is a little odd (with a heavy emphasis on bass and vocals), but this works with Sarin Reaper’s style, which incorporates elements of hardcore, death metal, and raw thrash / porto-black metal a la early Sodom or Bathory. While aspects of these four songs are metallic, Sarin Reaper feels like a punk band through and through… they don’t have the commercialized sound of a lot of metal bands, nor does it seem like they’re being self-consciously “kvlt.” They just sound like a bunch of freaks ripping it and not giving a fuck.
Hounds of War: Rabid March 7” flexi (Chaotic Uprising Productions) You might remember Hounds of War’s tape from last year (also on Chaotic Uprising), and now they’re back with a 3-song flexi. As before, Hounds of War invites comparisons with Vice Squad thanks to the double-tracked vocals, the tempos they play at, and the riffing style. Rather than sounding like a rip-off or an homage, though, Hounds of War takes the best parts of Vice Squad’s sound (i.e. the aforementioned elements) and makes substantial improvements. They tighten up the songwriting (all three songs come in under two minutes), the riffs are more interesting, and the metallic yet melodic guitar leads add some spice whenever they pop up. The production choices—both in terms of the sound of the record and the artwork and packaging—are of a piece with the rest of the Chaotic Uprisings catalog, so if you’ve been paying attention to the label’s other releases (which you should!), you know whether you’re feeling their precisely executed aesthetic. These three tracks feel like they’re over as soon as they start, but that’s OK because this has already stood up to repeated plays on my turntable.
Heavenly Blue: demo cassette (Sewercide Records) Sewercide Records brings us more underground music from Canada’s Maritimes region. Given its regional focus (and a sparsely populated region, at that), Sewercide’s catalog is marked by stylistic diversity and a list of members that overlaps heavily between projects, and that pattern holds with Heavenly Blue. Heavenly Blue features members of Booji Boys (who also released a record on Sewercide) and they’re inspired by the big riffs, catchy choruses, and party vibes of 60s garage rock. It’s not as retro sounding as something like the Ar-Kaics, though; they sound more like the 60s-inspired / retro end of the 90s garage revival, and if they’d been a band 30 years ago, they’d be a shoe-in for a record on Sympathy for the Record Industry or Crypt. The recording is raw and nasty, the singer growls as much as he sings, and the songs are catchy and fun. Budget rockers, garage turkeys, and total punkers can all find something to like in Heavenly Blue.
Donor zine Issue 1 + The Shits 7” flexi (Donor) When I write about records for Sorry State I focus on the music, sometimes mentioning whether the artwork feels stylistically consonant or dissonant with the sound. I also try to mention when a release’s physical packaging is noteworthy since we love and care about physical media here. Much of the time, a release’s packaging can feel like an afterthought, at best providing appropriate window dressing for sounds that have received far more creative energy. This package, though, throws that dynamic on its head. If you look at this as an elaborately packaged one song flexi, it seems pretty silly. The Shits’ Brainbombs-esque track here is cool, but the zine that houses and accompanies the flexi feels much more labored over. It’s a 16-page, A4-sized zine that’s printed full bleed and looks stunning. While the zine incorporates live shots of the band, flyers for their gigs, and lyrics and artwork for the accompanying track, it devotes more space to collages and poetry (lyrics?) whose connection to the Shits (whose name, not coincidentally, isn’t even on the cover) is unclear. The zine is beautiful, and the song is cool, but what sticks with me here is the inventiveness of the entire concept.
Variolación: Frenetica 7 Tracks cassette (self-released) The description the band gave me along with this record says it all: “Very rudimentary hardcore, not reinventing the wheel, but making it roll at an alarming pace.” Variolación takes inspiration from Discharge’s riffing and drumming styles, but brings their own sense of passion to the style, with the primitive execution in the playing and recording bringing to mind the South American hardcore records that description also references. It sounds like something you’d hear on an old BCT tape, and as with those recordings, you’ll need to listen past the production if you want to let this get its hooks in you. If you like your hardcore raw and primitive, though, this is for you. Oh, and as far as I know the band hasn’t posted this recording to the internet, so you’ll have to jump in at the deep end if you’re curious.
Various: Molde Punx Go Marching Out: 1980-1983 12” (Diger Distro) Molde Punx was a tape compilation that came out in Norway in 1983, and here that rare document gets reshaped as a beautifully packaged double LP. Molde Punx captures the prehistory of the Norwegian hardcore scene, and while only two of the bands that appear here made records (Bannlyst and Anfall), according to the hype sticker, members of these bands eventually played in more widely known (though, in America, not by much) Norwegian hardcore bands like Kafka Prosess, Svart Framtid, and So Much Hate. Most of the bands on Molde Punx, though, count the compilation as their only formal release. All the groups here are punk, but there’s a wide range of styles, from nervy art punk to blistering hardcore and just about everything in between (or at least everything that existed at the time). As someone who appreciates the full stylistic spectrum of 70s and 80s punk and loves the minutiae of small regional scenes like the one documented here, I am fascinated by the whole thing and don’t feel compelled to skip a single track. Along with the wealth of music, the full-color, LP-sized booklet compiles photos, flyers, and other visual ephemera from the period, and it’s a joy to pore over even though I can’t read Norwegian at all. The execution is on the level of well-regarded reissue labels like Numero Group and Radio Raheem, and with a ton of killer bands you can’t hear anywhere else, this is an essential grip for me.
Joukkohauta: Joukkohauta 7” (Audacious Madness Records) First vinyl release from this band from Finland, and it is a no holds barred rager. I’m sure many people will be tempted to reference the Finnish classics given that Joukkohauta is from that country—and I’m certain bands like Kaoos and Destrucktions are inspirations—but Joukkohauta doesn’t seem concerned with recreating the past. The singer’s cadences remind me of Poffen from Totalitär and the all-out assault of the production is straight out of the Anti-Cimex playbook, but the riffing is more metallic with lots of palm muting and chaotic, Discharge-influenced lead guitar a la Disbones-era Disclose. Aside from a brief mid-paced section at the beginning of “Kello Käy,” this EP is a non-stop hardcore punk assault. This is limited to 300 copies and while it’s currently flying below the hype radar, I don’t see this one sticking around forever.
End Result: Hellfire 7” (Hardcore Survives) After a couple split 7”s and cassettes, Hellfire is the debut stand-alone vinyl from this crasher crust band from Los Angeles. End Result sounds like they’re from the D-Clone / Zyanose school of blistering raw punk noise, with some of Gauze’s twisty turn-y (maybe even choppy?) songwriting style thrown in for good measure. The sound is loud, raw, and blown out, but clear and present… piercing and biting rather than dull and muddy. Between the chaotic, overblown production style, the manic tempos, and the busy arrangements, I feel disoriented when I listen to Hellfire. It’s a record that doesn’t allow you to find your footing, throwing you off balance with unexpected changes in tempo and dynamics. You’d think it was just expressionistic gestalt until End Result stops on a dime and plunges into total silence at the end of “Control,” my favorite moment on the record. This is a fucking ripper.
Glitter Symphony: In Green Furs 12” (Meat House) This 6-song 12” from Glitter Symphony is my big surprise of the week. When I previewed it before I placed my order from Meat House it went in one ear and out the other, but after it arrived and I gave it an attentive listen or two, it sunk its teeth in HARD. I’ve already sold Jeff on this record and I’ve been singing its praises to anyone who will listen. The short story is that if you like Kim Wilde’s first album or similar early 80s new wave groups like Holly and the Italians and the Go-Go’s, you will flip out over this record. These six songs are all certified pop bangers that can sit alongside the strongest tracks on any of those releases, and if you like this style, you’ll play this record over and over. If you’re a history buff, the longer version of this record’s story is that it contains songs by two different projects: Sizon and Glitter Symphony, both of which were brainchildren of Susan Hyatt, who has had a long music career since. Sizon was a studio project that released a two-song single that got some local airplay in LA. Sizon featured session players (including the drummer from the Knack), so Hyatt formed a live band with some high school friends and called it Glitter Symphony. While the name and the players are different, the two Sizon songs and the four Glitter Symphony songs that appear here are indistinguishable from one another… they’re all pop bangers. The record’s insert reveals some other interesting music industry connections (Hyatt claims to have introduced Duff McKagan to Izzy Stradlin), but for me the brilliance of these songs is the selling point rather than some music history nerd shit. If you aren’t sold, listen to “Room of Flowers” or “Imagination” on Bandcamp, and when you find yourself humming it later, come back and buy this record.
Various: Welcome to Pittsburgh 12” (Cruel Noise) One of the—if not the single—best hardcore scenes in the country gets the monument it deserves with Welcome to Pittsburgh. Anyone who is paying attention knows that Sorry State has all the love for Pittsburgh punks… we’re always hyping bands from the city and we have (or are planning to) put out records by multiple bands on this compilation. So of course I love it! But I’d be saying that regardless of any personal connections because this thing just rips. I’m sure there are other things going on in Pittsburgh, but Welcome to Pittsburgh is composed entirely of fast hardcore bands playing fast hardcore songs. I wonder if they told every band to send in a short and fast ripper or if that’s just the way it worked out. You would think at least one band would have tried to shake things up; even This Is Boston Not LA has the Proletariat. Perhaps it’s just that everyone on the comp knew who they would be up against, because you get a-level tracks from all of my favorite current bands from Pittsburgh: Heavy Discipline, Living World, Loose Nukes, Speed Plans, Peace Talks, RAT-NIP, Necro Heads, Detainees, Invalid, De Rodillas, No Time, Chiller, White Stains, and S.L.I.P. Wrap things up in some rad Keith Caves artwork and throw in a zine where every band gets a page to put their visual stamp on the record and you have a 100% essential compilation record. Like This is Boston Not LA and Flex Your Head—the gold standards for regional compilations—Welcome to Pittsburgh works equally well if you don’t know much about this scene and you’re looking for a sampler or if you’re already a fan and you’re eager to hear new material from these bands. And as befitting a city that is punker than you, I don’t think it’s anywhere on the internet, so you have to buy the vinyl and get the entire experience… there’s no room for dabbling. Welcome to Pittsburgh is, without a doubt, one of the essential punk records of 2021.
Repeat Offender: Demo 7” (Mendeku Diskak) You can probably take one glance at the Nicky Rat layout on this 7” and know whether or not it’s for you, but I’ll expound a little further in case you want to confirm. Mendeku Diskak is a label from Basque Country that specializes in oi! music from that region, but they’ve stepped out of their normal lane to press this LA band’s demo to vinyl. It’s no surprise it appealed to them, because this is exactly the kind of hardcore you love if your tastes also include some oi! Repeat Offender reminds me of the oi!-tinged New Wave of British Hardcore and Boston Crew bands of a few years ago… bands like Violent Reaction, Boston Strangler, and the Flex. Their music encompasses bruising SOA-style bashers, more mid-paced knuckle-draggers, and a few songs with a rock and roll swing to them a la Negative Approach’s “Nothing” or the catchier early Blitz songs. Six tracks appear here, and everything is perfectly executed with the right mixture of power and grit. If you’re into this strain of purist hardcore, this record ticks every box.
Kolpeka: demo cassette (Mendeku Diskak) Five song demo from this young punk band from Basque Country. I could have stopped when I read in Mendeku Diskak’s description that Kolpeka is a bunch of 15- and 16-year-old skateboarders, because I knew I would love it. I’ve heard thousands of punk records in my 41 years on this planet, and I am confident I will never make anything as direct and as powerful as what a teenager does when they pick up a guitar after several hours spent hurling themselves at a curb over and over. Kolpeka’s music doesn’t sound like skate punk at all, though. It fits with the general oi! vibes of the Mendeku Diskak label, but there’s also a strong backbone of catchy, Clash-inspired punk I associate with the Iberian peninsula. Kolpeka’s major key riffs and chanted choruses remind me of the great Prision Postumo album that came out a few months back, but the playing is more primitive and tougher. In particular, I’m in love with the way Kolpeka’s drummer plays. He has a very minimal style, but seems to hit the kick so hard… it just drives you forward and makes you want to march into battle. Skateboarding, youth, punk… this one has it all.
Spike in Vain: Death Drives a Cadillac 12” (Scat Records) Death Drives a Cadillac is the second Spike in Vain album that I never knew existed until I heard about this release on Scat Records. I guess I can forgive myself, because I can’t find any evidence that the recording had been released in any capacity until now. This description is going to assume that you’re already familiar with Spike in Vain’s one proper album, Disease Is Relative, so if you don’t know about that already, read about that album first. Or better yet, just buy it because it is one of the great unheralded punk LPs of the 80s. As someone who has long treasured my copy of Disease Is Relative, I didn’t know what to expect from Death Drives a Cadillac, but I dove in head-first and was rewarded with a great follow-up. Most of the things I love about Spike in Vain are present on Death Drives a Cadillac: the surreal lyrics, knotty rhythms, inventive guitar playing, sinister vibe, great artwork, and—most importantly—the band’s talent for bringing punk energy to a sound that is more or less art rock. I know nothing about the people who comprised Spike in Vain or what they were listening to but my impression is that—like Saccharine Trust, the Meat Puppets, or United Mutation—Spike in Vain was a bunch of arty weirdos who were drawn to hardcore because it was a freak scene. However, by 1984 and 1985, when Spike in Vain recorded Death Drives a Cadillac, the artier end of hardcore had splintered off, the meathead element pushing them toward genres like post-punk and roots music that offered more room for innovation and experimentation. Thus, Death Drives a Cadillac reminds me less of hardcore records and more of bands like the Gun Club, (2nd album and beyond) Meat Puppets, and the Birthday Party, all of whom seemed to value hardcore’s intensity but despised its strict norms. While some of that “post-hardcore” music could sound wimpy or commercial, this is not the case with Death Drives a Cadillac. This is still underground weirdo music, but it’s underground weirdo music with a wider palette and a sense of curiosity about what other emotions and ideas are out there. There isn’t a dud on Death Drives a Cadillac, which is surprising given that it’s a relatively lengthy LP (13 tracks!) and hadn’t been circulated until now. The sound is also great. Scat’s description mentions that these recordings had a bigger budget than Disease Is Relative, but I don’t hear any dodgy 80s production choices. If you already have and love Disease Is Relative, I’m can confirm that Death Drives a Cadillac is well worth your time and attention.
Disattack: A Bomb Drops 12” (Demo Tapes) Disattack was a short-lived band from Merseyside, England, and their claims to fame are that they featured a 15-year-old Bill Steer before he was in Napalm Death or Carcass and that they ripped off Discharge earlier than most people thought of doing it. That’s the short version, but as this package from Demo Tapes Records proves, there’s so much more to the story. If you’re concerned about the music, it’s cool, but it’s not the total Discharge worship you might expect. While you can hear hints of the Scandinavian style that had emerged by the time they recorded this tape (which they were aware of… one of Disattack’s members ran the label that released Anti-Cimex’s Criminal Trap 12”), most of the songs here do a lot more than just rearrange Discharge parts into new patterns. If you’re into obscure British and European crust from the early to mid-80s, though, you’ll get plenty of spins out of this 1-sided 12”. However, what I enjoyed most about A Bomb Drops was the thick booklet, which told the band’s story through a mix of archival documents and interviews with Negative Insight fanzine from 2015. Disattack started as a joke in a fanzine—the 80s punk equivalent of a meme—then morphed into a functioning band and fell apart after a few months. However, it’s the details—including encounters with future metal superstars and international d-beat legends—that make the story interesting. I can think of very few packages that tell a band’s story more eloquently than this one. This is only for the real punk nerds, but if you’re one of those people, you’re gonna love it.
Execütors: The New Decline 7” (Mister Face Records) New Jersey oi! band the Execütors has been around for several years now, putting out releases on a variety of labels (in fact, I’m pretty sure I’ve seen their All Against All LP in the bins at Sorry State), but this is the first time I’ve given them a close listen. I threw in copies of The New Decline when I was ordering copies of the Violent Way 7” from Mister Face Records. I think it might have been out for a minute, but it’s new to me and it fucking rips! Neo-oi! and UK82 punk have been a big thing in Sorry State’s distro for the past several years with bands like Rixe and Condor getting a lot of attention, but Execütors’ sound is less retro than most of the bands we’ve heaped praise on over the past few years. The cleaner, fuller sound works for them, though, because they are more complex and dynamic than most music I hear in this vein. Execütors remind me a lot of the two singles by the great UK82 / oi! band the Blood. As with the Blood’s tracks like “Stark Raving Normal” and “Megalomania,” Execütors bring an energy level, complexity, and dynamism to their music that reminds me of the Damned circa Machine Gun Etiquette. In other words, rather than recreating the surface trappings of a style, they put their energy toward writing great pop songs and delivering them with maximum speed and intensity. If you’re looking for an under the radar ripper, check this one out.
Artistic Decline: 4 Song 7” 7” (Meat House) Meat House has been killing it with the SoCal punk reissues. Rather than the lavish retrospective packaging of labels like Radio Raheem, Meat House does straight reissues that have great sound and packaging that is very true to the original release, and that pattern holds for this reissue from Artistic Decline. Artistic Decline is one of those bands I was vaguely familiar with; I’ve seen their Random Violence 12” a few time and they have a track on the 1983 compilation Life Is Boring So Why Not Steal This Record, but I don’t recall listening to them much, if at all. I’m glad to hear them now, though, because this 4 song EP is killer. While the original date on the EP is 1983, this sounds more like something that would have come from the Masque era of LA punk. The guitar sound is a little thinner and the music seems oblivious to hardcore’s then-calcifying genre conventions. They remind me of the bands on Keats Rides a Harley or Cracks in the Sidewalk, and like this week’s Record of the Week by Cleveland’s Spike in Vain, it seems to capture a time when hardcore had an artier, more expressive side. “Andy Warhol” is the hit here with its chanting, Rhino 39-esque chorus, but you won’t be skipping any of the four tracks. If you’re a fan of late 70s / early 80s SoCal punk and you’re not in the market for a $100 original, this is a great pickup.
Blood Ties: S/T 7” (Slow Death Records) We carried a demo tape from Canada’s Blood Ties a while back, and now they’re back with their debut 10-song EP. If I had to sum up Blood Ties’ sound, I’d say they sound like music made by and for people who consider the Negative Approach EP the purest and greatest expression of hardcore. It’s not that Blood Ties is imitating Negative Approach (in fact, I occasionally get a whiff of something that reminds me more of United Blood or Siege), but rather they are summoning the same muse. It’s hardcore stripped down to its bare essentials, that takes loud, fast, and pissed to its undiluted Platonic ideal, with only the bare skeleton of English oi! to give it the faint outline of musical shape. If you share this philosophy on hardcore—I do, even if there’s plenty of room in my listening diet for other things—I can’t imagine you wouldn’t think this rips… it’s raw, pissed, fast, and perfectly executed in every way. It doesn’t reinvent the wheel, but sometimes what you need is good old fashioned meat and potatoes.
Go Lamborghini Go: Low 12” (Mangel Records) I’m not sure how many people have caught onto them in the US, but for my money, Germany’s Mangel Records is poised to become the hot new label. Their latest release is this debut 12” from Germany’s Go Lamborghini Go, and like the Ostseetraum 12” Mangel Put out a couple of months ago (which I’m still listening to regularly), I can’t get enough of Go Lamborghini Go. Part of this record’s charm is that I can’t figure it out. The label’s description notes that Go Lamborghini Go formed as a last-minute substitute for another band and that all of their music is improvised (except the vocals, which are overdubbed later). These circumstances and choices seem to color the music on Low. First, it’s difficult to pin down stylistically. While there is a Gang of Four-ish quality to the songs that have a bass groove at the center, “Truce” sounds like shoegaze to me, and the a-side closer “Cheap” is a short skronk-fest that reminds me of Can’s least accessible moments. Not only is listening to this record exciting because you never know what’s going to happen next, it also makes me realize how controlled and mannered a lot of the music I listen to is. And of course, beyond just being eclectic, the music here is full of powerful moments. Like the Ostseetraum record I mentioned above, I find myself playing this record over and over. It’s like a puzzle I can’t figure out but keep chipping away at.
Alien Nosejob: HC45-2 7” (Iron Lung Records) In an update full of ripping hardcore, Alien Nosejob’s new EP stands out as perhaps the most ripping of them all. To bring you up to speed, Alien Nosejob is a solo project by Jake Robertson of Ausmuteants, Leather Towel, Hierophants, and many others. If you’ve checked out Leather Towel’s killer album IV or the first of Alien Nosejob’s HC45 series, you know Robertson is no stranger to straightforward, ripping hardcore. However, HC45-2 is something else, even from the first record in the series. This record is just raging, full-on, pedal to the metal intensity. Robertson doesn’t have a clear precedent in the tradition of hardcore vocalists, and that means that even when his bands are playing at blazing tempos, they sound more like the Dickies than, say, the Neos. But on HC45-2 the vocals are lower in the mix and obliterated by chaotic guitar feedback, and Robertson takes a rougher and less nasal vocal approach. It still sounds like him, but it sounds like him after a couple of years getting bounced around juvenile detention centers. And the songs themselves are masterpieces of compositionally compressed, ultra-dynamic hardcore. This record leaps and lunges and plunges and explodes in all the right ways, an 8 minute thrill ride that holds nothing back.
Evil I: Official Bootleg 12” (Alonas Dream) Alonas Dream Records delivers another outta the ballpark hardcore punk reissue, this time an unheard 1983 ripper from suburban Chicago band Evil I. As far as I know, Evil I has never been reissued in any capacity, and if you knew Evil I before this reissue and you weren’t going to shows in Chicago in the 80s, I am seriously impressed at the depth of your knowledge. For me, they’re a totally new band, and I can’t believe something this killer has flown under the radar for so long. When I first listened to this record, I was blown away. While the recording is very raw, the band just fucking blazes. It’s not that they’re super tight—in fact, they’re pretty loosey goosey—but they are super fast and their songs are full of these changes that are quirky, tricky to execute, and extremely potent. The other standout aspect of Evil I is their vocalist, who sounds so fucking pissed. The singer reminds me of Julie Lanfeld from Sin 34, but with a maniacal, John Brannon-like level of anger. There isn’t much material here, which means I’m going to flipping this record a lot. Maybe I should buy two.
Silent Era: Rotate the Mirror 12” (Nervous Intent) California’s Silent Era has been around and releasing records for a while now—we’ve even carried most of them at Sorry State—but I feel like I’ve slept on them. I FUCKED UP! I cannot stop listening to Rotate the Mirror. I can see why Silent Era isn’t a hyped band, because their style of melodic hardcore is one that never caught on the US. They seem more in tune with a tradition of European bands who were rooted in the early 80s hardcore scene but, as that decade wore on, added more melody and complexity to their songwriting. I’m thinking of bands like Funeral Oration, HDQ, and particularly Norwegian bands like Kafka Prosess and So Much Hate (though Silent Era’s vocals are much more melodic than those bands). Not only did a scene for this style of music never catch on in the US, but also it lacks some immediacy because there’s so much going on. The riffs are dense and complex on their own and when you add equally complex vocal melodies and restless hardcore drumming (Silent Era’s drummer was the original drummer for fucking Vaaska!), it takes some time for your ear to make sense of everything Silent Era throws at you. Once you hear it, though, it makes other melodic punk bands sound flat and sterile by comparison. And for extra cool points, they end this blistering 20-minute record with an Upright Citizens cover, though not a fast one like “Swastika Rats…” instead they cover “Future Dreams,” one of Upright Citizens’ most melodic songs, and they nail it, possibly even improving on the original. I acknowledge this won’t be for everyone, but if it sounds like it might be for you, be sure to check out Rotate the Mirror.
The Serfs: S/T 7” (Market Square Records) You may remember a previous release, Sounds of Serfdom, by Ohio’s the Serfs; we carried a vinyl version on Germany’s Detriti Records and a cassette version on the domestic Wasted Tapes label. This time around they’re back with a three-song single on Market Square Records, who has brought us great releases from the Cool Greenhouse, Collate, and Suburban Homes. If you liked Sounds of Serfdom, you’ll want to check out this new single, but if you haven’t heard the band, they’re a little difficult to describe. While their songs revolve around a steady, metronomic pulse, some tracks (like the two songs on the a-side) have an organic, garage-y feel that sounds a little like the Oh Sees’ most Can-inspired moments, while others have an electronic groove that’s more in line with the bands on Detriti (including that label’s most famous band, Molchat Doma). That contrast worked well on Sounds of Serfdom, but the two sides of this single almost sound like different bands. The issue isn’t that one is better than the other, but that I want to hear more of both sounds and this single is frustratingly short. If you’re into punk singles, you’re probably OK with the tease, but hopefully this is just a snack to hold us over until the next Serfs release.
X-Intruder: Punished For The Crime Of Lacking In Judgement 12” Debut release from this UK solo project. If I’m reading the description correctly, the person who is X-Intruder is also the owner of the long-running UK punk label No Front Teeth. While No Front Teeth has released a few bands I know and like (like Sick Bags), I don’t know much about the label, so I’m coming in without too many preconceptions. The description mentions Lost Sounds and I can hear that in the snotty, heavily accented vocals and the catchiness of the songs, but X-Intruder is much more hardcore. It sounds like there’s a lot of Plastic Surgery Disasters-era Dead Kennedys in X-Intruder’s DNA, particularly the overall dramatic flair and the East Bay Ray-like ability to craft memorable guitar hooks. My only complaint—though many people would see this as a plus—is that Punished For The Crime Of Lacking In Judgement is a bit long. While 26 minutes is a short full-length by any normal person’s standards, my frame of reference has been ruined by far too many 7”s and short-ass 12” 45s. If you’re a glutton for fast and catchy hardcore punk, though, this is what you want.
Prison Affair: 2 7” (Erste Theke Tonträger) I don’t know much about Prison Affair except that they (if indeed it’s more than one person) are from Barcelona and this EP, 2, is their first vinyl release. It comes to us via Germany’s Erste Theke Tonträger and fits right in on the label that brought the Coneheads album to the masses. (Aside: it frustrates me that the style of punk Coneheads pioneered still doesn’t have a coherent, generally accepted name. I can’t fuck with “Devo-core.”) Prison Affair has the mutant Chuck Berry licks, direct-to-board guitar sound, fast closed hi-hat drumming, and over the top tape warble you want from this style, and if you buy genre records in this genre, I can’t see any reason you wouldn’t love it. I do, however, think Prison Affair brings something new to the style. I hear this most clearly on my favorite track, “Entre Barrotes,” which has a melancholy-sounding chord progression that reminds me of the Buzzcocks’ “Harmony in My Head.” The tension between that gloomy chord structure and the relentless cheer of the riffing style results in a spectacular track. While that song is the highlight, there are elements of that originality all over 2. If you like this style, this is a no brainer; and even if you don’t, there’s a lot of cool stuff going on here if you’re willing to hear beyond the surface level.