Spiteful – Sonny Vincent & Spite (Still Unbeatable Records)
Sonny Vincent’s address book is fuller than a well-hung pornstar’s underpants so it’s no surprise to see him working with another star-studded gang on his latest album.
With his band drawn from the ranks of the Sex Pistols, the Stooges and The Damned, “Spiteful” is a gold-plated punk rock blast from go to whoa.
Sonny is what they call “well-travelled.” He literally grew up on the streets of New York City, fell headlong into the flowering Max’s and Bowery scene of the mid-‘70s with his band the Testors, and since then has played with a veritable rogue’s gallery/galaxy of underground rock dogs and street-level superstars.
Herr Vincent tours and makes uncompromising but melodic albums from his home base in Germany. He operates on a self-sufficient, indie level and works with small but like-minded labels, so getting a completist’s handle on his extensive back-catalogue can be a challenge.
If you haven’t heard his output you seriously need to get out more, or at least start Googling and tracking some of it down. You wouldn’t want to be missing out, now, would you? In terms of what Vincent does best, “Spiteful” is as good a place as any to dive right in.
Think this is going to be the blurting of some so-called supergroup of faded has-beens living on past glories? Reconsider your position, motherfucker. Sonny’s co-conspirators are Stooges saxman Steve Mackay, Pistols bassist Glen Matlock and Damned drummer Rat Scabies. That’s some band but more to the point, the music actually lives up to expectations.
Rat Scabies is quite the drummer these days, “playing” the songs rather than just laying down time signatures, and of course Glen Matlock has always had a sense of colour to his bass-lines. Mackay doesn’t limit himself to accents and lifts a few songs to the next level. The recording is raw in all the right places with minimal studio embellishment. The overriding sense is that you’d want to see these guys live, should the stars ever align.
“Spiteful” was three years in gestation, having been built from the wheels up at an all-analogue studio in Belgium. The band was never in the same room at the same time. You’d never pick it.
The first thing you notice is the razor-sharp Vincent guitar and impassioned vocal. They’re trademarks. Opener “Dog on The Subway” makes extensive use of Mackay’s wailing sax – and it works a treat as a featured instrument.
“Now That I Have You” and the (almost) restful closer, “Clouds”, show depth and melodic intent but are nevertheless still sharper than a brand new switchblade. At a rough guess, however, it’s the hyperactive rockers like “Bad Superstition”, the tightly-wound “Wait”, the runaway train ride “Sidewalk Cracks” and the bluesy swing of “Macon” that will keep you coming back.
A further word on the songs: There aren’t a whole lot of surprises here for the initiated. Sonny works on a gut level to some degree, with some much-loved riffs, themes and melodic devices that he cycles back to, but that’s not to say there’s anything contrived. This music is about as real as punk rock gets.
My 14-track review version will vary from what comes out on LP in November with differing tracking and a substituted song. Rest assured it will be around in CD and vinyl formats (coloured and gatefold) and will kick your arse so hard it will leave serious bruises.