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John Scott's SSR Pick: May 12, 2022

What’s up Sorry State Readers? I hope everyone had a good week. As we enter these warmer spring months, I find my listening habits changing up a little. Everything is green and blooming again, and naturally I’m drawn towards more upbeat and bouncier music. This week I’ve been listening to a lot of Tom Tom Club but the album I want to bring attention to about today is Close to the Bone. If you’re not familiar with Tom Tom Club, the band was originally founded as a side project by Tina Weymouth and Chris Frantz, husband and wife duo of Talking Heads fame. Recorded in 1983 down at Compass Point Studios in Nassau, this record is the follow up to their highly successful first self-titled album and features heavy reggae and dance club influences all over it. The legendary reggae producer Lee “Scratch” Perry (R.I.P.) was set to produce the first record for them but failed to show up to any of the scheduled recording sessions, so they took matters into their own hands with the assistance of Jamaican engineer Steven Stanley, who at the time was only 23. The band also took the reins for the second album. Both records feature beautiful cover art by artist James Rizzi that I get lost in every time I look at them. Back to Close to the Bone specifically though, this album is packed full of groovy tunes. Tracks like “The Man With The 4-Way Hips,” “On The Line Again” and “Pleasure of Love” were all met with great underground success. I love the B-side of this record, it’s so much fun to listen to. I find the lyrics from “Never Took a Penny” stuck in my head after every listen.

“Never took a penny

Never told a lie

You made me so unhappy

Now I’m gonna make you cry”

Shit just hits sometimes. I also really love the song “Measure Up.” It’s a lively song that’s got a lot of different stuff going on in it; I’ll include the track in a link below. In short, this album is a lot of fun and a great listen while enjoying a nice spring picnic or out on the beach this summer. If you haven’t yet, give it a listen.

Angela's SSR Pick: May 12, 2022

Hi Sorry State fam! I hope all is well and you’re out there catching shows and not COVID, and that you’re buying/acquiring cool shit to listen to!

My pick of the week is the newly released Spread Joy II album. As I was writing this week’s blurb, I noticed a pattern in my staff picks. I’ve totally been gravitating toward fun, fast, high-energy grooves, so the new Spread Joy was a no brainer.

Compared to their much loved S/T debut album, this one is a good three minutes longer. Clocking in at a modest 17+ minutes, the band continues to give us only what we need and zero filler. And they really do a great job deciding what’s necessary, because I don’t walk away feeling like I was short-changed at all. Speaking of short, the opening track, Ow, is a 45 second whirlwind that might make you second guess whether you have the album on the right speed. It’s so damn catchy and abrasive (in the best way). My point is it’s so satisfying I didn’t notice how short it was.

The album is clean and crisp, bouncy and frenetic, with sick bass lines that lock in perfectly with the super crisp and clean drum beats. It’s razor sharp all around, and just as tight as their debut. But head to head, this one has an edgier vibe, and I think that has a lot to do with the vocal delivery of Briana Hernandez. Which is fucking rad.

Briana’s vocal style is diverse and high energy. It shifts from bouncy and poppy to shrill and erratic. I wouldn’t call it riot grrrl, but it does toe the line here and there. At times it even feels like she’s about to go full Kathleen Hannah. I mean, I wouldn’t mind a few ear piercing, rage-laden screams, but I’m also perfectly content with her fresh and really interesting vocal delivery. A great example of that is on the song Discomfort is Palpable, where it sounds like she’s crying the song instead of singing it. And if that was the intent, it’s brilliant. I want to hear more people cry their songs. Not cry ON their songs. Cry their songs. That’s an important distinction.

Having not heard Spread Joy until this latest release, I didn’t know what to expect. They are frequently described as post-punk, which, sidebar, is such a catch-all that it tells us absolutely nothing. Just in general, it’s become nothing more than a “safe phrase” to spare oneself a stern virtual lecture on what is and isn’t punk. You know, a wise man by the name of Ian MacKaye—maybe you’ve heard of him—was once asked how he would define punk, and he said (paraphrasing) that punk is just a free space. A free space to create. And that’s what Spread Joy sounds like to me. They sound free. They sound unburdened by labels and constraints and rules. They sound like a band that’s here to move shit forward, whether we like it or not. They sound punk.

Oh! We’ve got the new Spread Joy album in black and also a stunning clear coke bottle green. I know colored vinyl isn’t everyone’s bag, but there’s just something about clear vinyl that sounds far superior to other non-black vinyl. And don’t sleep on their first album either!

That’s a wrap for me. Thanks for reading and have a great weekend!

Usman's SSR Pick: May 12, 2022

Hello, and thank you for reading. I went to a few gigs over the weekend and had a blast. I saw QUARANTINE, who ruled. No surprise there. I was happy to get some hangs in and grab one of their tour tapes. Luckily, they put it online so everyone can hear it even if you don’t have a copy. Hell yes. This band rules and everyone in the band also fucking rules. I can’t wait to hear what is next for them. Alright, so we just got the new RIGOROUS INSTITUTION 12” last night. I’ve only listened to it one and half times, but I think I like it a lot, so I am mentioning it here. I just now discovered you can jam it online already here, actually. I don’t think this band needs an introduction, right? To be honest, when I listen to this band, I can’t tell what I even like about it. But it always keeps me listening. That’s why I said “I think” I like it haha. It’s a weird feeling. I think it makes me feel uncomfortable cos of the way the songs are written. I’m not sure. It certainly doesn’t bring me a feeling of joy, and it doesn’t bring me the satisfaction of teeth-grinding hardcore. The songs almost creep along. They aren’t driving, and they are not catchy. It kinda sounds like you are wading through some nightmarish swamp of shit, and the air you’re breathing is humid with a suffocating stench. The vocals are prominent in mix and sound just simply gross. It truly completes the sound. Anguish. That is what is sounds like. Does that sound like something you want to hear? Alright that’s all then, thanks for reading and thanks to everyone for the support.

Dominic's SSR Pick: May 12, 2022

Hi there, one and all and thank you for reading our newsletter. It means a lot to us that you take the time to do so, and we of course hope that you leave with something cool to check out and get into. This week the conversation here in America is centered around the right’s attack on a woman’s right to choose what happens to her body. These nut jobs are intent on rolling back fifty years of freedom and progress and won’t stop there. I mean, they’re even going after Mickey Mouse. This weekend should see protests across the country to oppose this potential overturning of Roe Vs Wade by the Supreme Court and here in Raleigh we are expecting folks to come out. Without getting into a political discourse here as this is not the place, I will use this as the link to my pick for you this week, as it seems appropriate.

Laura Lee: Women’s Love Rights. Hot Wax. 1972

On the humble radio show I do over at The Face Radio we played a track from this album, and it got some good responses and rightly so; it’s damn good. We played a cut called It’s Not What You Fall For, It’s What You Stand For and lyrically it says it all. Add the fact that the backing is a killer funk-soul track, and you have a certified winner. Go take a listen.

Laura Lee was born in Chicago and raised in Detroit. Her career began singing Gospel with The Meditation Singers in the late 1950s. She toured the country with them successfully for many years until making the switch to a secular career in the mid 1960s. Signed to Chess Records, they attempted to score a hit with Chicago produced tracks but a move to Rick Hall’s Fame Studios in Muscle Shoals resulted in the song Dirty Old Man becoming a top twenty R & B hit and a top 100 pop hit. This was followed by several more R & B hits, but in 1969 she left the label and after a quick spell at Cotillion found her way to the newly formed Hot Wax label in 1970. Hot Wax was the label set up by Eddie Holland, Lamont Dozier and Brian Holland, the three brilliant songwriters and producers who had just left Motown. They scored hits with acts like Honey Cone, 100 Proof (Aged In Soul), Flaming Ember and with Laura herself. The label stayed around for just four years and was folded with acts moved to the sister label Invictus, another Holland-Dozier-Holland run label whose big successes were with Freda Payne and Chairmen Of The Board. The label is also notable for releasing the first Parliament album, Osmium.

Women’s Love Rights, the song, was released as a single and ended up becoming one of her biggest hits, breaking into the Pop top 40 charts. It’s a great song and sets the tone for the rest of the album where every song discusses the female experience from one angle or another. Musically, the sound is similar to the pop-soul sound of those Honey Cone records, but Lee’s gutsy and raspy soul delivery makes these songs just a little but more special and meaningful. That she is singing about woman’s liberation issues right as Roe V Wade was being settled into law is not lost these fifty years later. It is astonishing that we are considering overturning that landmark decision and rolling the clock back. It makes a work such as this record stand out even more now. It was already a great record but deserves even wider exposure to a new and younger audience.

Side one is packed heavy with bangers. Wedlock Is A Padlock is a terrific song that talks about exactly what you think it does. One of my favorites is the song I Don’t Want Nothin’ Old (But Money) where Laura puts down her old loves and tells us what will cut it with her. On Love And Liberty we get a telling of the state of affairs in women’s liberation and it makes you sad to think that there are still people (men) that want to turn back the progress that had been made up to that point back in the early 1970s.

The second side of the record switches gears slightly and tackles the subject of love and relationships in a more traditional manner with less of the protest but with just as much soul and passion. She takes an old standard like Since I Fell For you and extends it with the sort of personal confessional rap that Millie Jackson would do so well and make popular during her career in the 1970s. On Two Lovely Pillows, a love song, Lee’s vocals really make the difference and transform the song into something much more urgent and pleading.

It’s all great stuff and basically a top soul album from start to finish. Kudos to producer William Weatherspoon, another Motown man that came over with Holland-Dozier-Holland. He worked his magic on Freda Payne and Chairman Of The Board among some of the other Hot Wax & Invictus label acts.

Lee cut another album shortly after for Hot Wax called The Two Sides Of Laura Lee and her former label Chess also issued an album of her earlier sides called Love More Than Pride, cashing in on her current success but in the process creating a decent album of songs. Around this time Lee began a relationship with singer Al Green and left the Holland-Dozier-Holland stable, but soon after became seriously ill and had to retire from the industry. She reappeared later in the 80s with a gospel album and once fully recovered in the 90s continued her life as an ordained minister and singing mostly gospel.

It will be those late sixties sides and the two early seventies albums that she will rightly be remembered for, and I would encourage you to seek out a copy of any of the three albums I mentioned, but look out for Women’s Love Rights. It speaks to us now just as strongly as it did fifty years later. Thank you, Laura Lee.

Before I sign off a quick note to tell any of you that might be interested in knowing that we have in stock a few copies of The Gentle Cycle LP I mentioned a couple of weeks ago. It’s a good album and on nice green vinyl too. Snag one while we have ‘em.

Okay, that’s my lot. Cheers everyone. Take care, love each other and I’ll see you here next time.


Daniel's SSR Pick: May 12, 2022

Today we launched preorders for three new releases on Sorry State, and coincidentally test pressings for three upcoming releases just arrived yesterday. I’ll have plenty to tell you about those records in the coming months, but listening to the test presses last night had me reflecting on the process of releasing a record. Earlier this week I put a lot of energy into writing descriptions for the new releases, which is a weird exercise. I love writing for the newsletter, but I always struggle to write the generic blurbs that get passed along to distributors and reposted on the websites of stores and distros that carry the record. I feel like I know my audience for the newsletter. I imagine the people who read the newsletter are the die-hards like me who are eager to know about all the coolest new releases, and my job of telling you about what we carry is pretty straightforward. However, when I’m writing for the wider, more nebulous audience for the descriptions, it’s very different. The cliche is that writing about music is like dancing about architecture, and I feel that when I try to both introduce and sum up a record I care about in one pithy paragraph.

For many of the releases on the Sorry State label, the official description blurb is one of the few things I write about the record. Which is ironic because these are the releases I feel the most connected to. While I lean on the bands for most of the creative work on the records I release, I develop a close relationship with releases as I shepherd them through the production and manufacturing process. This relationship feels even more intimate when I put out multiple releases by an artist. So, for my staff pick this week, I thought I’d give you an insider’s view of the three new releases.

The Sorry State label has never benefited from consistent branding. I’ve always released whatever excited me at the moment, and you can see trends in the label’s discography as I get into particular sounds or scenes. There are also certain styles I just like; Sorry State will always put out records that sound like early 80s hardcore. While the three new releases differ greatly from one another, each of them continues a thread that runs through the label’s discography.

Invalid’s self-titled LP is SSR-108, and given that it has the earliest catalog number, I’m pretty sure it was the first of the three projects to come together. (I typically only assign a catalog number once I have a master recording for a release; if you want to read more insane ramblings about catalog numbers, check out this old staff pick.) As I wrote in the main release blurb, Invalid appeared on my radar when they released their Do Not Resuscitate cassette on Cruel Noise Records. I didn’t know it at the time (though I might have assumed), but Invalid features members of heaps of other bands I like. If you cruise their Discogs profile, you can see connections to Blood Pressure, Caustic Christ, and EEL, for instance, but there are many more I’m sure.

It’s more than the pedigree that attracted me to Invalid, though. Stylistically, Invalid has this sound that I don’t hear often, but I love when I do. The three records I mentioned in the official description—Direct Control’s first 7”, COC’s Eye for an Eye, and Unseen Force’s In Search of the Truth—all fall under that umbrella. It’s 80s hardcore at its core, but with a bit of thrash metal in the riffing style and an emphasis on writing memorable parts that aren’t quite pop but are hooky as hell. So you get the intensity of 80s hardcore, the musicality of thrash metal, and the catchiness of more anthemic strains of punk brought together in one package. It’s a subtle balance to achieve, but Invalid nails it.

Beyond the style, I also love that Invalid performs their music with such intensity. Conventional wisdom states that hardcore is a young person’s game, but I tend to be fond of bands whose members are older. These bands know—if only intuitively—why they’ve stuck with hardcore. I love the sound of young kids discovering hardcore as an outlet for their youthful energy, but there’s something about old heads who use hardcore as a way of articulating and responding to life’s never-ending drudgery. It makes the music mean more to me, like hardcore is growing along with me as I get older and my values and passions evolve.

Next up is SSR-110, Woodstock 99’s Super Gremlin LP. While Woodstock 99 released a demo and a 7” before Super Gremlin, I’ve known the members for much longer than the band has existed. Their singer and drummer are both from North Carolina and I’ve known them and followed their projects since they were quite young. In that way, Woodstock 99 connects to another thread in Sorry State’s discography, and that’s documenting the hardcore punk from our part of the world. This part of the label’s mission, which is inspired by Dischord Records, waxes and wanes as our local scene does, but I’m always proud to put out music from North Carolina that I think deserves a wider audience. Not that Woodstock 99 is from North Carolina, but my connection to the band is personal, unlike with Invalid and Hüstler where I have had little real-life hang time with the band members.

Anyway, Woodstock 99’s three core members were in Cement Shoes, and I followed and enjoyed that band and the first two Woodstock 99 releases. I liked all of them, but I hadn’t considered putting out a Woodstock 99 record. Then my friend Trevor, who sings for the band, sent me the recordings that became Super Gremlin. I’m not sure if he was fishing for a label or just sharing what he made because we’re friends, but the record blew me away. It starts off in the (relatively) straightforward hardcore mold of their previous 7”, but bigger, bolder, and meaner, the crisp and bright recording and the band’s massive sound reminding me of War All the Time / Kings of Punk-era Poison Idea. But then the record goes somewhere else.

If you lived in the mid-Atlantic and saw Cement Shoes numerous times over the course of their existence, you probably noticed a change in the band. They’d always had an off the wall sensibility (just look at the cover art for their first album), but toward the end of the band, that evolved into full-on antagonistic crowd baiting. I remember a show where they opened for Warthog and L.O.T.I.O.N. in Richmond. Trevor harassed and abused the audience for the length of their set, to where I was kind of upset and worried about him. Now that I think of it, that was the record release show for their album, Too, and I remember one member telling me they sold zero copies of their record at the gig. It’s like they were daring the crowd to like them, and no one took them up on it.

I think the darkness of that era of Cement Shoes resulted from some particular circumstances, because once the members moved to Cleveland and reconfigured as Woodstock 99, the seedy darkness had reemerged as a more playful, yet still dangerous, psychedelia. One thing I like about psychedelics is their ability to unlock my sense of wonder, and even though I was sober and taking a walk on the nature trail by my house when I first listened to Super Gremlin, it summoned that sense of wonder. As I listened to each track, I couldn’t wait to hear what the band was going to do next. Super Gremlin isn’t like a genre record where you know what you’re going to get and the band impresses you with their adeptness at elaborating and interpreting a style. It’s a record that sees punk rock as a wide-open arena of possibility, and charges in whatever direction the wind blows. It’s a record that feels so fresh that I wanted to be part of it, even if I know some people will not get it at all.

Finally, SSR-113 is Hüstler’s self-titled LP, which compiles their two previous cassette releases on Sorry State. Hüstler is one of the few bands who I agreed to put out based on an unsolicited submission. People send me music all the time. Every day I get one or two emails, sometimes more, from people asking Sorry State to release their music. A large percentage of these I never listen to because I can tell that the person doesn’t know or care about what Sorry State does. Plenty of others I listen to and like just fine, but don’t feel the spark I need to in order to want to release a record. Putting out a record is a big decision that involves investing thousands of dollars and many hours of my and my employees’ time, and it’s not worth doing if I’m not passionate about the music. With these kinds of submissions, I suggest other places where they might send their music and offer to carry the record in our distro once it’s out.

Submissions rarely move me enough to want to release a record when I have no personal connection to the band, but when Tyler from Hüstler sent me what became their first tape, I was hooked. I couldn’t (and, truthfully, still can’t) articulate what I heard that drew me in so much, but Hüstler just had something. Their music had the intensity of the hardcore and punk I’ve always loved, but it sounded fresh. It didn’t sound like anything I’d ever heard, but I knew that I liked it. That Tyler just wanted to put out a cassette and wasn’t pushing for a vinyl release (which is much more expensive and riskier) made it an easy decision to press up 100 cassettes and see if the rest of the world responded like I did.

And they did! Hüstler’s first tape sold out quickly, and once the physical copies were gone, the digital version kept getting downloads on Bandcamp and plays on Spotify. A few months later, Hüstler did a second recording that was even better than the first one. Without losing the intensity, they leaned into the more idiosyncratic elements of their sound and arrived at something even more original and memorable. The second tape sold out even quicker than the first, and also continued to get plays on Spotify and Bandcamp. I haven’t checked, but I’m guessing Hüstler has done more business in digital sales than any previous Sorry State artist. I think we hatched a plan for an LP compiling both tapes around the time the second EP came out. Given the strong reaction the first tape got and the fact that the second tape was (in my opinion) even better made me confident that plenty of other people like Hüstler just as much as I do.

Re-reading this lengthy staff pick, I realize I pretty much said what I said in the official release blurbs I mentioned at the beginning, only with a lot more words. Maybe this version clicked with you when the snappier versions didn’t, or maybe you should ignore my ramblings and just listen to the music and form your own impressions, because you can do that in the year 2022.

John Scott's SSR Pick: May 5, 2022

What’s up Sorry State readers, my name is John Scott and you’re going to start seeing me around the store more. I’m excited to get to know all of you, so if you see me around don’t be a stranger! I’ve been in Raleigh for about ten years now, but I’ve moved around quite a bit in the Memphis and Nashville areas. In my free time, I enjoy going to the flea market and antique stores and places like that and just looking out for anything that catches my eye. I love finding old random stuff you can tell someone really cared about and give it life again. Naturally, that led me to start collecting records. A few years ago, I moved a couple blocks down the street from Sorry State and I discovered the store at some point down the line during my ritualistic morning walk. It quickly became my favorite place to shop. I started coming here in my free time whenever I was bored and wanted to find some new music to listen to. There is nothing more rewarding than digging through the bargain bins and finding something that looks cool, you take it home and it sounds equally awesome. This is how I discovered my love for jazz records. I would come in near the end of the day and go through the Jazz bargain bins and grab a few records (often along the lines of Bossa Nova or Brazilian Jazz) that piqued my interest. I’d go home and throw them on and lay out on the couch and just go over the things that were running through my head during the day or maybe think about nothing at all and just listen to the music. Have you ever had Astrud Gilberto serenade you at the end of a long day? It’s very soothing. They’re also perfect to throw on when having people over for a nice laid-back shindig. My friends tell me I have a great selection of “Lounge Music” to pick from. That’s why I love throwing on a record. There’s something about the act of physically picking out an album and putting it on and getting everything just right that makes people really appreciate the music.

More recently, I decided to embrace my southern roots and dive into more country and bluegrass, and I’ve been loving it. I used to be one of those dorks that would go around saying “I listen to all music genres EXCEPT for country.” How lame is that? I guess I was that way because I was exposed to it all while growing up in the south, so it didn’t seem very exciting to me. There’s so much cool shit to be heard when you don’t limit yourself, though. Who doesn’t love getting back home on a late Saturday night with some friends for a final final and moaning out “Lord I love to hear her when she calls me sweet da-a-addy” along with Hank Williams? If you haven’t before, I highly recommend it. This leads me to my first staff pick, Country Casanova by Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen. I found this a few weeks ago in the country section and the cover art alone was badass enough to make me check it out. I immediately loved it after my first listen. “Everybody’s Doin’ It” is one of the most fun and catchy songs I’ve ever listened to, and it is exactly what you think it is. That is, of course, if your first thought was truckin’ and fuckin’. I’ve yet to play that song for someone without seeing a smile come over their face. “Shall We Meet” is also a great song and sounds like something you would hear Billy Strings cover today. Another one of my favorites off this album is “My Window Faces The South,” a classic country song that’s been covered by many artists over the years. It’s just got such a warm feeling to it that reminds me of a southern summer day. Maybe I also just really like it cause I’m usually listening to it laying on my couch that faces a big window I’m aimlessly staring out of. At the time of writing this, there’s another copy of this album in store so if you ever feel like a little bit of honky tonkin’, come stop by and pick up this record!

Angela's SSR Pick: May 5, 2022

Hi Sorry State fam! I hope everyone’s doing well out there, considering. Like a lot of people, I’ve been sort of stuck in a state of anger, fear, and disappointment with our fucked up government for a while now and the current state of absolute insanity. But music is a great outlet for all those shit feelings, and it’s always given me a sense of community.

Ya know… community is great and all, but I also feel like kicking some heads, and that’s my segue into this week’s staff pick. I’ve been really digging Headkicker’s debut release, presented by our own Sorry State Records.

Headkicker’s debut is an exhilarating 13 minute ride that keeps the same energy from start to finish. “The Law” is the opener and the standout track for me, as it just busts the door down and immediately grabs your attention. It’s fast and intense, with great vocal delivery to match. It’s got a bouncy post-punk beat with a dash of garage rock. Another standout, “Televise,” is reminiscent of late 70s punk, both with the vocals and the more urgent guitars. And the song “Future” feels like the punk anthem of the bunch, so it makes for a great closer.

Headkicker pays homage to its predecessors with its diverse mix of punk styles, but it’s by no means just a walk down memory lane. It incorporates such an interesting blend of different sounds that keeps you on your toes. There’s also a well-crafted shift in musical styles and structures throughout, and they maneuver these shifts with ease. It can be a tricky thing to experiment in a short amount of time without sounding like you’re throwing shit at the wall hoping something sticks. It’s clear Headkicker knows what they’re doing, because everything seems to stick. I can’t wait to see what else is in store for this band.

Oh, we need to talk about the packaging for a second, because it’s just so fucking cool! The retro vibe of the polka dots really makes it stand out, but it’s the braille on the pink outer strip for me.

By the way, this is a limited run and we only have a handful of these cassettes left, so I would grab it while you can. You won’t be disappointed!

Check out the opening track, “The Law” linked below.

Dominic's SSR Pick: May 5, 2022

Hello Sorry Staters. Thank you for joining us again. I hope you had a great week. Leaving the news aside, as we all know what horrible stuff is going on around the world and especially here in the United States, where we are fighting off our version of the far right. Kudos to the French for voting for democracy and giving the fascists the middle finger. Same here please.

Personally, I’m happy this week, as the Mighty Reds continue to win football matches. We are now in our tenth European Cup final and still competing for an unprecedented quadruple – the first English side to play every possible game in one season. Win or lose, it’s a great time to be supporting Liverpool. With so many other not so good things going on in my life, at least there’s footie and music.

There were a few record release anniversaries this week – Stone Roses debut, New Order’s Power, Corruption & Lies, The Cure’s Disintegration and some holidays of note including Eid al-Fitr (ending of Ramadan) and Cinco De Mayo. The latter being one of the most misunderstood celebrations of the calendar year. Not Mexican Independence Day, but rather commemorating a famous battle and victory over the French. It’s a celebration of defeating colonizing imperialism but that part has been somewhat lost over the years and now the day is more an excuse to drink tequila and eat Mexican food and is far more celebrated in the U.S. than Mexico itself or anywhere else for that matter. Anyway, that aside, I would like to use the day as an excuse to recommend a record that was made by a Mexican artist and hopefully one that some of you will enjoy hearing.

Ernan Roch Con Las Voces Frescas: La Onda Pesada. 1971. Discos Rex / Shadoks Music / La Onda Records

Ernan Roch, born Herman Rocha was a music mad teenager from the Veracruz region in Mexico. Like all teens during the early and mid-1960s, he became obsessed by the pop, rock and folk sounds coming from the US and the UK. A talented musician, he entered a studio for the first time aged just thirteen. These early recordings were apparently not released but are said to anticipate the sounds that Carlos Santana was preparing to release on the world. Roch increasingly added more western psychedelic influences to his music. His parents not appreciating this side of their son, shipped him off to an American military academy, thinking that would put him straight. However, being in America during the late 1960s only encouraged him more and when he returned to Mexico, he took up with his early producer to begin work on the songs that make up his album.

Singing all the songs in English with backing from a group called El Amor who would go on to record several albums themselves, the album was recorded in late 1969 to early 1970 and saw release in 1971 on the Discos Rex label. It’s a fabulous mix of West Coast psych and pop with great fuzz guitar playing on several songs. There are several highlights, but lead track The Train is the one that usually shows up on compilations or DJ mixes, and rightfully so. People have compared the sound to that of Damon and his amazing Song Of A Gypsy album. That record is incredible and highly regarded and there are similarities. One being the price for an original copy. Either of these will set you back four figures if you find one for sale. The Damon LP goes for several thousand as an original. I’m happy with my reissue. Lol.

I first came across the Ernan Roch LP via a grey area reissue on the La Onda label a few years ago. For a fan club pressing it doesn’t sound too bad. I have recently upgraded to the Shadoks pressing now, as that comes with nicer packaging and sound. The OG copy will have to wait unless I get lucky and find one on my next Mexican vacation.

The album isn’t just a one-track wonder though. The remainder of the album has lots to offer. On the radio show I do, we played the track All Right / It’s Gonna Take Me Time, which is a good up-tempo number with another stinging guitar solo. There’s more heavy guitar riffing on Gonna Make It, a bluesy number. That song, along with most of the others, has strong acoustic guitar strumming going on and combined with his vocal style reminded me of the great Sixto Rodriguez and his Cold Fact LP. That album, as you probably know, is excellent and was recorded around the same time. If you enjoy Rodriguez, then you’ll be onboard with Ernan Roch.

Also, like Rodriguez who didn’t see his work get recognized at the time, Ernan Roch’s record wasn’t “discovered” until many years later and is still under the radar. He disappeared from the scene, although apparently returned with an album in the mid-80s titled Suenos, but I have not seen a copy or heard that record. There are also some tracks from an unspecified date that have a more polished and Bowie-esque glam sound, but I can’t give you any details on those I’m afraid as I haven’t heard them.

Mexico had a ton of great garage, psych and heavy rock groups during the 60s and 70s and you are encouraged to dig deeper. Groups like Dug Dug’s, La Revolucian De Emiliano Zapata, Kaleidoscope and the aforementioned El Amor all have great records in their discographies.

Have a great Cinco De Mayo everyone and if I have piqued your interest on this one, I noticed there were one or two dealers selling the Shadoks reissue for a decent price on Discogs should you want to take the plunge.

Cheers and see you next time.


Jeff's SSR Pick: May 5, 2022

What’s up Sorry Staters?

As I’m sitting down to write for our newsletter on this beautiful Wednesday evening, my mind is also preoccupied with getting ready for my trip this weekend. Before I get into talking about my staff pick, I wanna give a little heads up to you readers about what I’m up to! I’m leaving tonight to head up to Richmond to meet up with the rest of Public Acid and we’ll be playing a few dates this weekend. We’ll be support for those UK lads in The Chisel for a couple of shows on their East Coast Tour. We’ll also be accompanied by our good homies in Dark Thoughts and Quarantine for both the gigs that we’re playing. So rad! Thursday night is the Richmond gig, which will be sick. Then on Friday we’re playing The Chisel’s gig in Philly, which Impalers are also playing. I’m very stoked about that. Then we’re heading up to New York to see Warthog shred. We’ll spending be spending a few more days in NY just to hang out or whatever, eat some pizza, maybe do some band business, who knows? ;)

But enough about me. Damn man, Radio Raheem might as well just take all my money at this point. Compilations have always been a killer vehicle for musical discovery, particularly when you’re talking 80s hardcore. The Master Tape (both volumes 1 &2) are among some of my favorite punk compilations to ever be released. And who were the first band I heard on side A of the first disc of the Master Tape: Volume 2? Violent Apathy. From Michigan, this band played pounding, primitive and serious as fuck hardcore. The track “Ignorance Is Bliss” being the faster track on the comp, I always had my fists clenched when that song was blasting. Violent Apathy’s songs just precede Malignant Growth, which is some of my favorite stuff on the whole comp, but that’s besides the point. Now Radio Raheem has reissued a session Violent Apathy recorded in 1981 prior to their first 7”. Short bursts of raw and killer hardcore, with songs so short that the label released all the songs repeated on both sides of the 7”. I love it. At least it’s not single-sided.

We’ve already sold a handful of these 7”s. If this write-up catches your attention, then definitely pick up a copy from us. A small and interesting part of the puzzle when taking a look at 80s Midwest hardcore. Hell yeah!

That’s all I’ve got. By this time next week, I’ll have just returned from Public Acid’s adventure. As always thanks for reading.

‘Til next week (we’ll see),


Daniel's SSR Pick: May 5, 2022

Peter Hammill: Nadir’s Big Chance 12” (1975, Charisma Records)

My favorite source of musical discoveries lately is the BBC 6 Music program The Freak Zone with Stuart Maconie, which plays left-field music of many stripes, including psych, prog, kosmiche, jazz, modern classical, electronic, and many more that are unclassifiable. I mentioned the show a few weeks ago because it turned me onto the Okay Temiz and Johnny Dyani LP that was my staff pick then, and another recent episode had me heading to Discogs to find a copy of this 1975 LP by Peter Hammill. I can’t remember what track Maconie played on his show, but it was enough to get me interested, and when I did a little digging and found that Nadir’s Big Chance was pretty much entirely in that 70s glam / art rock vein I love so much, I knew I had to find a vinyl copy for the full experience.

I didn’t know it until I started doing research in preparation to write this piece, but I already had several Peter Hammill records in my collection. However, they were not under Hammill’s own name but Van Der Graaf Generator, the group he co-founded. I’m not super knowledgeable about Van Der Graaf Generator, but I pick up their records whenever I come across them, and I always enjoy them. Hammill was prolific in the 70s, releasing a spate of LPs under his own name and Van Der Graaf Generator, sometimes multiple albums in a year. The solo and Van Der Graaf projects seem fluid as well, with the same musicians and songwriters contributing to both projects. In fact, Nadir’s Big Chance features all the musicians in Van Der Graaf’s 1975 lineup, and songwriting contributions from Judge Smith, who played drums in the original lineup of Van Der Graaf Generator.

While I’m not well-versed enough in this universe of musicians to explain precisely how it fits into the bigger picture of their discographies, I can tell you that Nadir’s Big Chance differs from Hammill’s other records in that, on these tracks, Hammill inhabits the character of Rikki Nadir. On the back of the jacket, Hammill calls Nadir a “loud, aggressive, perpetual sixteen-year-old,” and Nadir’s voice gives these “three chord wonders” an extra jolt of energy. While, in 1975, the glam rock movement was losing steam in Britain, Nadir’s Big Chance huffs from the same bag as records like Electric Warrior and Ziggy Stardust, all pomp and drama and exuberance. Nadir’s Big Chance doesn’t sound like kids’ music, though; what it resembles more than those mainstream glam touchstones are the artists from the artier end of the glam spectrum, particularly early Roxy Music and Brian Eno’s first couple of solo albums. Like those records, Nadir’s Big Chance struts and preens, but it also reaches and challenges, and the record is produced with a raw, homespun feel I love.

Famously, when John Lydon played some records on Capitol Radio in 1977, he dropped in two tracks from Nadir’s Big Chance, “Institute of Mental Health, Burning” (what a title!) and “Nobody’s Business,” noting that Bowie might have stolen a few moves from Hammill (though by 1975, one must note, Bowie had killed off Ziggy and was moving into his Thin White Duke phase). If I’ve piqued your interest, Lydon’s selections are a great starting point, but I’ll also mention “Birthday Special,” another of the highest energy tracks on the album.

SSR Pick: Jeff: April 28, 2022

What’s up Sorry Staters?
I don’t know what’s going on with me lately… Sure, I wrote about some Mexican new wave last week, but beyond that, I do feel like I probably have sounded awfully sentimental for the last couple weeks. I hope all you reading this don’t mind me waxing nostalgic about hardcore. Is this what happens when you get to a certain age? I don’t think I’m unhappy with my current existence in the punk world, but whether it’s been talking about Big Boys or Career Suicide, I guess I have been reminiscing like a dum dum.
I’ve been listening to DRI a lot again recently. I know, big surprise, right? I’m pretty sure that about a year ago, I wrote about DRI in the newsletter when I finally scored an og copy of the Dirty Rotten EP. I’m worried that I’m just gonna regurgitate a bunch of the same shit I said in that newsletter from last year, so I’ll try to make this fresh. By pure coincidence, as I realized I might be repeating myself sitting down to gush about DRI, this young dude came into the store today with his dad. It was like the punk-metal universe was trying to tell me something! This dude must’ve been about 14 or 15, and he was wearing a vest just totally decked out in patches. And of course, right on the chest panel of his vest was a big DRI patch. I was like, “Hell yeah, kid.” I must’ve been about his age when I first became obsessed with DRI. While I was standing at the counter listening to this kid and his dad chat with Dom, it sounded like they go to gigs together… which is cool! I don’t recall ever going to see Circle Jerks and Negative Approach with my Pops haha, my dad is more into hard rock and metal. Then his dad bought a copy of Crossover, which admittedly is not my favorite DRI record. They’re not quite into the lyrical territory of “Don’t be tardy,” and shit like that yet, but even by this album, they’re already getting a little too thrashy for me. But THEN, the kid bought both Death Side CDs we had in stock. Didn’t matter that we didn’t have any copies on vinyl -- he was happy to buy them anyway. That got me stoked. He had never heard Wind of Pain by Bastard, so I told him to immediately go check that out.
Around the time I was first getting into DRI in high school, I was playing drums (badly, I might add) in my first real band called Feeble Minded. I recently stumbled across my old bass drumhead in my closet, which I’ve held onto after all these years. The drumhead had our band’s logo on it. I hand drew that skeleton design when I was around 16 or so. I also burned the screen and screen-printed the logo onto the drumhead myself. I was also skateboarding every single day around that time. Damn, I used to do so much cool shit… What the hell happened? Haha.
Anyway, that’s all I’ve got to say this week. Go blast some Dirty Rotten Imbeciles, ya freaxxx. Speaking of which, a heads up for all you local punks: I’m putting out some DRI records this weekend for our used new arrivals. We’ve got an og 12” version of the Dirty Rotten LP going out. But if you crave that original format, I’ve also got a 7” version with all 22 tracks crammed onto a bite-size platter for ya (not an og, of course.) Plus, tons more killer used punk 7”s!
As always, thanks for reading.
‘Til next week,

Angela: SSR Pick: April 28, 2022

Hi Sorry State readers! Hope everyone is doing well. Or at least above average. I realized after the last couple weeks that I just jumped right in to the staff picks and never really introduced myself here. I will keep it brief. I’m Angela. I’ve been an avid Sorry State consumer for years and have accumulated some of my most prized vinyl here. I worked at two record stores a long long time ago in college, and then some more years passed and I became a psychologist. I’m also pretty unconventional, and nothing is more fun than working for a record store. Let alone my favorite record store, and with some really cool people. It’s a pretty ideal gig to be surrounded by music, talking about music, and also writing about it… which brings me to my staff pick.

The Neutrals Bus Stop Nights EP has been flying off the shelves here since it released. I keep a stack of them next to me because I pack them in so many orders! It really is SO good. It’s a straightforward, poppy, jangly, post-punk gem with super clean guitar work and complimentary vocals. Allan McNaughton’s Scot accent is apparent, but it comes to the forefront in the ridiculously catchy song, Gary Borthwick Says. This standout track was love at first listen. It’s a song about a bullshitter type of guy, with great lines like “Gary Borthwick is completely sure he played bass guitar for The Cure.”

The EP accomplishes a lot in only 11 minutes. It’s cohesive, and there’s a thoughtful dichotomy between Side A and Side B. The first side is fun and jangly, with clever punchy lines. Side B is less harmonious, and goes deeper, delving a little bit into new wave post-punk. On the song Pressure of Life, I got a late 70s Cure vibe (think of the album Three Imaginary Boys). The EP wraps up with my second favorite track, New Town Dream. The guitar speeds up, and the band delivers what I think is the catchiest riff and best drum beat on the EP. And then it’s over. You’re sort of thrown out of the car while it’s moving, but you’re not mad at it. You just want to get back in that car. So, by my calculation, you need roughly three spins to feel more satisfied.

So yeah, the only downside to the new Neutrals EP is that it ends. After my very first listen I thought, aww, that’s it? And I can’t think of a better indicator we have something special on our hands. Grab it! You won’t regret it.

Link below to check out the standout track “Gary Borthwick Says.”

Thanks for reading!