If there’s a lesson to be learned from ex-Testors frontman Sonny Vincent’s fresh, guest-star-studded new solo album, it’s that in this age of neo-garage overstock, there’s something to be said for leaving punk rock to the pros. You want that circa ’73 nuclear-meltdown Detroit-punk guitar sound? Hire a Stooge. You want a rhythm section anchored with machine-gun-BPM walking bass? Get the dude from the Damned. Vincent did both — Scott Asheton and Captain Sensible are part of the core band. He also hunted down 19 flaming-groovy soloists, among them the Voidoids’ Robert Quine and Ivan Julian, Black Flag’s Greg Ginn, the Heartbreakers’ Walter Lure, Offspring’s Noodles, Sonic’s Rendezvous Band’s Scott Morgan, Sonic Youth’s Thurston Moore, Gastr del Sol’s Jim O’Rourke, and the Muffs’ Kim Shattuck.
The typical result for such old-school reunions is disappointment — all attitude, no songs. But Vincent has written an inspired batch of tunes, in a style that’s as classic as Raw Power and as blazingly contemporary as anything by your favorite Swedes. Imagine a Hellacopters album performed by all the people they’ve copped riffs from and you’re almost there. Vincent’s gonzo lyrics read as if he were belting them out as he went along, but the results are both plainspokenly heartfelt and unremittingly freaky, touching, paranoid, zonked. " They want a human zoo/They want your freedom, too! " (on the opening, flamethrower-strength " My Guitar " ). " Yeah! Rock action! Chain reaction! Breaking balls every time! You’re just a rocker! " ( " That Sound " ). " Is anybody gonna give a party to Lou?/I’m third by a cathouse or two " ( " Down the Drain " ). " Then I got much better, I got over you/I’m not even pissed at your mom and dad! " ( " Yesterday’s News " ). " I like all your songs/Yeah! Right from the heart! " ( " Trans-Love, " a cringe-worthy man-you’re-the-coolest paean to the MC5’s Wayne Kramer, who guests elsewhere on the disc). But there’s coherence here too, in the busted-up elegance of " Tired of the Telephone, " one of the better miss-you songs Johnny Thunders never wrote, and in the drug-casualty scorcher " Scratchin’ on the 8 Ball, " which, dedicated to Thunders, evokes the hopeless grandeur of Rocket from the Tombs’ " Ain’t It Fun. " Who says you can’t put your arms around a memory?
(Sonny Vincent, backed by members of Rocket from the Crypt, plays the Middle East this Saturday, March 22. Call 617-864-EAST.)