Review: Sonny Vincent & Rocket From The Crypt – Vintage Piss

Here's a wee gem from the Swami Records archive

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Since 1993, the 13 songs which make up the wonderfully-titled album ‘Vintage Piss’ have sat on a shelf somewhere in San Diego.

Earlier that year, Swami Records – the label run by Rocket From The Crypt frontman John ‘Speedo’ Reis – curated a 33-track collection by New York punk rock draughtsmen Testors called Complete Recordings 1976–79. It featured every single song recorded by the band before a series of incidents led to frontman Sonny Vincent’s short spell in a New York State psychiatric hospital.

A US tour soon followed, with members of the Rocket From The Crypt – Speedo, guitarist Andy ‘ND’ Stamets and drummer Mario ‘Ruby Mars’ Rubalcaba – acting as Vincent’s backing band in a set that reignited those dissonant songs, flickering brightly in Manhattan stamping grounds like CBGB’s or Max’s Kansas City. It was on this tour, perhaps buoyed by fans’ reception to their performances, that someone suggested they enter a studio and record an album.

Vintage Piss, then, was recorded with bluster at Drag Racist Studios in San Diego and captures the essence of both Vincent and Rocket From The Crypt at their most sonorous.

Tracks like Unlock, Pick Up The Slack and They Say You Are Crazy are a swarm of urgent downstrokes and masterful drumming, all wrapped up in Vincent’s defiant croon and shot through with Speedo’s unique guitar phrasing. It’s the perfect snapshot of 2003; on one hand, here’s a punk legend energised by a timely re-release and, in hindsight, it’s the energetic swan song of a band in the throes of breaking up.

Drag Racist closed shortly after and the sessions – unmixed and unfinished – were set aside and left to rot. It was only Rocket From The Crypt’s 2013 reunion that sparked an interest in the recordings, prompting a lengthy restoration of the degraded tape.

A rare, unexpected treat.

Simon Young

Born in 1976 in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Simon Young has been a music journalist for over twenty years. His fanzine, Hit A Guy With Glasses, enjoyed a one-issue run before he secured a job at Kerrang! in 1999. His writing has also appeared in Classic RockMetal HammerProg, and Planet Rock. His first book, So Much For The 30 Year Plan: Therapy? — The Authorised Biography is available via Jawbone Press.