Louder, “self-titled” LP

cover - louderThe self-titled LP from Japan’s Louder would be a lot better if it could decide what it wanted to be. Half the cuts are big sugar-metal jams, like album opener “Idiot Mind.” Hearing them, one can only assume that the band’s name is both homage to and one-upmanship on the early ’80s Japanese band Loudness. Those kinds of songs are catchy, they’re fast, they’re fun — and, ultimately, transient.

Louder’s standard rock ‘n’ roll is good, but it’s not particularly noteworthy enough to stand above any of the other bands which have come before them. Stacked up against Guitar Wolf, Electric Eel Shock, or even Gito Gito Hustler, they just can’t compete. However, when you listen to something like “Prank” or “Dog Off,” with strange, skronky guitar lines and snottier vocal delivery, Louder becomes way more interesting, and something worth checking out.
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Reviews of No Love and Davidians’ entries in Sorry State’s North Carolina Singles Series

sorry state north carolina singles series
Sorry State Records recently launched their first single series, dedicated to releasing bands from North Carolina, and the first two installments are now out. The singles come in identical sleeves, and the design asthetic is clean, with a color scheme that calls back to the North Carolina flag, without directly referencing it. With hand-stamped center labels on the vinyl, the packaging combines thoughtful with the slight sloppiness of DIY, making for a cool look.
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Ruleta Rusa, “No Aqui Es” LP

cover - ruleta rusaLooking at the cover, I was thinking, “What the fuck? Did Sorry State put out a thrash record?” Just taking a glance at the jacket for Ruleta Rusa‘s No Aqui Es, and you’re thinking Grim Reaper or some other mid-’80s stalwarts.

However, the instant the needle drops on this LP, and it’s a different matter. This is rock ‘n’ roll — punk ‘n’ roll, if you want to be specific. It’s like Motorhead at first, but moves smoothly into ’80s hardcore by the end of the first side.

To clarify, in terms of hardcore, it’s got that East Coast flair, where everything was a little more standard rock ‘n’ roll, whereas West Coast hardcore always seemed a little warmer — it’s a totally random decision I made on my own, to which I attribute the weather differences.
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Joint D≠, “Satan Is Real Again, Again, or: Feeling Good About Feeling Good About Bad Thoughts” LP

cover - joint d satan is realListening to Joint D≠‘s latest, Satan Is Real Again, Again, or: Feeling Good About Feeling Good About Bad Thoughts, is not something I recommend while jacked up on half a pot of strong coffee. The album’s so tightly wound, you’ll find yourself grinding your teeth and tensing up in your chair, wondering when it’s going to relent.

Here’s the secret: it doesn’t. From start to finish, through all nine songs, Joint D≠ moves with coiled rhythms, shredding your nerves while they’re attacking their guitars. It’s almost as if the band has decided that the intensity from their first album, Strike Gently, needed to be cranked up and spewed forth in greater quantities.
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The Love Triangle, “Clever Clever” LP

cover - love triangle clever cleverIs is possible for something to be both frantic and chugging? Something about the Love Triangle‘s music makes me think of a biker movie — everything synced to the sound of wheels on blacktop. Clever Clever, out now on Sorry State is like that sound, only jacked to the gills on mini thins and truck stop coffee.

Which isn’t to say that this is surf rock or country trucker music — no, no. The Love Triangle fall somewhere in the meeting ground of early British punk like the Damned, Buzzcocks, and the Adverts and any act to have splintered off from the Marked Men (Mind Spiders, Potential Johns, et al).
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The #1s, “Sharon Shouldn’t” 7-inch

cover - 1s sharonThe #1s — in addition to being one of the hardest bands to find in our modern-day #hashtag culture — have been making quite a name for themselves in the pop underground as of late. They’ve put out two singles in rapid succession, and finally have a proper United States release with their “Sharon Shouldn’t” single on Sorry State and Alien Snatch.

The title track is a masterful piece of power-pop, with a really crisp sound to it. If the sleeve didn’t tip you off to their early-’80s sonic aesthetic, the opening seconds of the track will immediately clue you in. There’s no fuzz on this cut — everything is super-clean and high end, rocking out with just a little of that vocal effect that sounds like you’re singing into a very quiet bullhorn. Lots of dropped-out bits — dropping out all the instruments to let the vocals take hold; letting the drums and bass do a little chooglin’, then slicing some razor-sharp guitar riffs through them — make for some great dynamic moments.
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Whatever Brains, “Whatever Brains (2013)” LP

cover - whatever brains 3The third self-titled LP from Raleigh, North Carolina’s Whatever Brains is less manic than their last, also for the Sorry State label. It’s droning as fuck. I don’t mean that in a negative or positive way — it’s simply that each and every track on this particular release has an underlying vibe than hums along monotonically.

That’s not to say that it’s a monotonous record. I don’t think Whatever Brains could be monotonous if they tried. Take, for example, the closer to side A, “Horse Complex 2,” which is a Boards of Canada song gone awry. It mixes their cinematic drone with the electronic blips of a science fiction theme song — it reminded me of nothing so much as the opening credits to Forbidden Planet while on a fistful of pills.
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The Sickoids, “No Home” EP

cover - sickoids no homeThe Sickoids have been name-dropped to me as a band to check out repeatedly over the last few months, so it was pretty great to have their latest EP, No Home, show up in the mail last week. The 12″ is a split release between Grave Mistake and Sorry State, and it’s loaded with visual imagery that clues you into what’s ahead before you even have a chance to drop the needle.

The cover of No Home is a photo of a 1965 tornado survivor sitting on the steps of what used to be his home. The back cover is an image of the skull of Phineas Gage — a railroad worker, who in 1848 had a tamping iron driven through his cheek, exiting through the top of his skull, yet survived. These are not going to be songs of hope. These will be songs of survival.
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No Tomorrow, “Nuclear Exposure” 7-inch

cover-no-tomorrowIn the span of two weeks, I received these slabs o’ wax with amazingly surprising levels of loving detail. The effort which has gone into the creation of these collections of music is absolutely phenomenal. Hand-screening jackets, stamping labels, numbering … it’s all a serious labor of love resulting in something that really defines what we like about vinyl.

Honestly, these are the purest, most tangible bit of music one can put their hands on in a digtal age such as ours. Live music may be more immediate, but it’s ephemeral. Once a show’s over, it’s done. No matter of documentation — be it visual, auditory, or otherwise — will recapture the pure raw experience of a live performance.
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Hygiene, “Hygiene” 7-inch

cover-hygieneMy favorite releases on Sorry State are rapidly becoming the ones that step outside their traditional hardcore boundaries. Brain F≠, Smart Cops, Whatever Brains, and now Hygiene — all bands that are definitively “punk,” but bring something extra to the genre rather than a straight three-chord attack.

Hygiene’s self-titled 7-inch features two songs, both self-titled. One’s a ponderous bit of a slog called “Hygiene.” The band’s Canadian, but this song is ever-so-British. The production’s left the song with rough edges, but “Hygiene” still manages to be completely free of distortion, fuzz, or echo. It’s fresh, not sloppy. Think the Modern Lovers’ calculated messiness.
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