Sonny Vincent and Spite - Spiteful (Cover Artwork)
Staff Review

Sonny Vincent and Spite

Spiteful (2014)

Ultramafic Records

Sonny Vincent’s skill has always been the ability to record soulful songs that had a backbone. Ever since his time in the Testors, he has rocked, focusing on blues based punk riffage, but almost all of his songs are tempered by a sort of Howlin’ Wolf earnestness. So, it’s fitting that for Spiteful he builds a “supergroup” of members who truck in a similar trade.

Featuring Vincent on vocals and guitar, Spiteful also includes Glen Matlock of the Sex Pistols on bass, Rat Scabies of The Damned on drums, and Steve Mackaye of the Stooges on sax. It’s not surprising that Vincent chose these guys as his dream team. But, what is surprising is how well these musicians work together.

Spite is undeniably a supergroup, but like the best supergroups, they don’t feel like a supergroup… they just feel like a group. Vincent’s bluesy guitar congeals instantly with Matlock’s rumbling bass. This is punk music, but it’s also in the vein of Electric Mud. Scabies drums as hard and as powerfully as he ever has, striking with force, but keeping a sort of swing in the music. Meanwhile, nobody sounds like Mackay. His boozy, blurry swirl is in the background if most songs and adds a late night NY swagger to the tunes. Slyly, “Thief of Words” opens with a classic Mackay cacophonous sax blast, ala side B of Fun House.

The foursome really seem to be on the same page here and exhibit why those early punk records are so indelible. At the forefront of these songs is a hard edge. Vincent snaps out hard, catchy riffs while the entire band slams along with energy, but not perfection. It makes the whole release combustible and invigorating. But, in addition to the lithe heaviness of these tunes, these is heart at the back end. On harder tracks like “Dog on the Subway,” Vincent spits out nastiness, but his grainy voice betrays a certain longing. Meanwhile, the band is deftly able to pull off the rare feat of the “punk ballad.” “Beg for love” is a love song about desperation and pride, and suffering because of it. But, while Vincent keeps his heart on his sleeve, he retains his tough-guy-with-feelings persona. It’s a tough thing to pull off and not many people beyond Joey R and Iggy P have been able to do it. Add Vincent to the list.

Spiteful is Vincent, Matlock, Scabies, and Mackay, exhibiting their core strengths. Because the members are all from the same lineage (a few further up in the line than others), it’s expected that they would release an album that salutes classic punk and Detroit rock like this. What’s not expected is how natural and powerful this album is. If only every supergroup could live up to its potential like this one.