Ultramafic – Sonny Vincent (self released)
Ultramafic: An igneous rock with a very low silica content and rich in minerals such as hypersthene, augite, and olivine.
This is a short run of 12-inch vinyl, each copy with its own bespoke, hand-painted artwork. They were put together for a series of art exhibitions in Switzerland, New York City, Holland, Germany and France about 10 years ago. It will look great on your wall and sound devastating on your turntable.
The music was recorded by Sonny Vincent and various bands from 1976 onwards – much of it in tiny studios while on endless tours of Europe and the USA. Some of it has been heard in other versions.
The line-ups include Vincent’s Max’s and CBGB staples, Testors, as well as members of Rocket From The Crypt, Sonic Youth, The Damned, the Stooges, Dead Boys, the Velvet Underground. There’s even an appearance by Ernie Knapp, a guy who drummed for Charles Manson as well as the Beach Boys (I shit you, not.) Don’t expect polish. It’s all uncompromisingly raw, but always passionate.
Therein lies the attraction of Sonny Vincent’s music. It’s fearsome punk rock for the most part, apart from a few diversions, with familiar themes (angst, isolation, rejection and drugs among them.) It’s the music of an outsider who’s not about to be let in, but he’s never just going through the motions. It’s real.
This may not be the best place to start if you’re uninitiated. The sonic quality varies wildly although it’s been evenly mastered. People who have ridden the Sonny fan bus before will have their favourites. The drum-less and bass-less “Crystal Clear”, the always searing “Bad Attitude” and the downbeat “Epic Ripped Up Letter” (featuring Scott Asheton, Captain Sensible and Cheetah Chrome – if you have to ask, leave now) resonate especially well to these ears.
Not every player is well-known. Some of Vincent’s most committed bands have been lesser lights from Europe where playing this sort of music is a perpetual struggle against the cultural tide with few, if any, tangible rewards. The intensity shines through, even on the relatively low key “Pride”. The oddly dislocated funk of “What Is This Feeling” is a curve ball but if James Chance can fuck with your preconceptions, why not Sonny?
OK, $US50 might be a lot to part with once you put postage on top compared to a download, but MP3s suck and the gallery price was six times that. This link will guide you to a copy as well as an Aladdin’s Cave of other punk rock Sturm und Drang.