Sonny Vincent – Snake Pit Therapy
Released 17 September 2021
Brand new 15 track album by New York punk rock pioneer Sonny Vincent, which was recorded in Florida, apart from Japan Mofo which was set down in Portugal with ex-Stooges bass player Jimmy Recca…Ian Canty slithers around the sound of punk rock & roll…
New Yorker Sonny Vincent’s track record stretches far back beyond the dawn of Big Apple punk rock in 1975, when he first made a real mark with his ground-breaking outfit The Testors. Prior that he had been part of various bands from his early teens in the middle of the 1960s onwards. He made his initial recording with The Liquid Diamonds near the end of that decade. But it is fair to say that The Testors, who Sonny formed in 1975, was his first brush with fame. They quickly became part of the New York punk scene, playing the main venues like CBGBs and Max’s Kansas City. After they split in the early 1980s, Vincent went onto to play and record with a number of outfits including The Extremes and The Dons and more recently with members of Rocket From The Crypt. He also has issued material widely as a solo artist, with this new LP his 28th full length collection.
Snake Pit Therapy, also the title of Sonny’s recent book, roars out of the blocks with Stick. A real muscular hubbub of proto-punk sound boils up that gives way to a catchy hook, with the song a heartfelt statement of the power of stubborn persistence and resistance. Then comes Messed Up In Blue, which has a lot in common with Husker Du circa New Day Rising, being fast, tuneful and concise. The End Of Light follows in its wake and is akin to Minneapolis’ finest trio too with bass player Tim Shapland also supplying some fine lead guitar work on this one. Slowing the tempo to mid-pace, The Rain Is Black Again is one of a couple of tracks on the LP with titles that seem to reference impending environmental disaster. But the song itself is far more concerned with personal turmoil.
Can’t Absorb is more reflective and looks at the kind of personal alienation I know I’ve felt more strongly in the past couple of years. I imagine the pandemic has a lot of people feeling similar. The lyric addresses a desperate drive to feel something in a world that increasingly doesn’t appear to be built for human emotion. Winding the tension up again is Never Tried, which is all sharp riffs and galloping drums, with Vincent’s hoarse vocal gamely keeping up with the song’s rush to be heard. The mighty MC5 seem to be invoked on Higher Than Charlie, a no holds barred monster of classic rock & roll mayhem.
Midway through Snake Pit Therapy we meet the rock hard pop structure of Get Out. This offering rallies convincingly against the liars that for some reason always seem to rise to the top of society while stepping on everyone else, plus the personal torment that invariably follows involvement with that particular type of person. Whip Tree has some neat spiky guitar, with the semi-spoken vocal inferring the problems of a society founded on brutality. Ex-Stooges bassist Jimmy Recca guests on the sped-up Little Richard explosion of sound Japan Mofo, recorded in Portugal. It is blessed with an irrepressible rock & soul strut.
A fizzing r&b shuffle Radiation Day features some deep vocalising from Vincent and Ruby Diamond’s hyper-speed tuneful force could be a more punk-inclined Motorhead. Not Alone even starts with a little acid rock soloing, before settling down into another fast rocker that crackles with no-nonsense vim. The listener is allowed to draw breathe on the lighter style of penultimate item Another Land, some nice backing harmonies and breezy energy are on display here. The song seems to look at dependence, whether it be through drugs or relationships. Then the final piece in the jigsaw is Forest, which starts with wordless choir and guitar shimmers. Vincent talk-sings his way through in typical fashion and the subject matter represents hope in humanity, after the pitfalls have been nailed throughout the album. It is a note of the triumph through adversity that gives Snake Pit Therapy a glorious send-off and sums up Sonny’s raison d’être- bloodied but still up for the fight.
Though very different thematically, Snake Pit Therapy reminded me a lot of Wayne Kramer’s excellent Dangerous Madness album from 1996. There is a similar air to it, that of a hard-bitten, straight talking musical veteran clearly stating the wisdom experience and hard knocks life has granted him. There is also the same stern refusal to bow out quietly, via amplifier exploding guitar thrills that somehow reaffirms the redeeming power of rock & roll even at this late stage. The souped-up thrust of the music, a simple but lucid production and the down to earth sentiments of the lyrics come together to make the album a full-bodied treat of street attitude expertly allied to tough and tune-laden music.
Sonny Vincent is on Facebook here
All words by Ian Canty – see his author profile here