Collision Drive continues the trend started on the first Alan Vega album of incorporating Vega’s love of ’50s rock and R&B. “Ghost Rider,” which sounded cold, sleek, and mechanical on Suicide’s first album, now becomes an upbeat rockabilly rave-up. Vega covers Gene Vincent’s “Be-Bop-A-Lula” and plays it mostly straight (although he does throw in his trademark howls and yelps, along with some synthesizers). The two versions of “Magdalena” aren’t really different enough to justify their presence, although the song itself is likable. The track that stands out the most, however, is the 13-minute “Viet Vet,” an extended poetic rant in the pattern of Suicide’s “Frankie Teardrop.” It will either seem like a brilliant piece of performance art, or it will sound unbearably self-indulgent, depending on a listener’s tolerance for Vega’s excesses. For the most part, though, rollicking tracks like “Raver” and “Rebel Rocker” are enjoyable and exciting enough to offset any of the less successful experiments. Collision Drive may be uneven, but at its best, it will definitely provide more than enough smart art pop to chew on.
B-Side plus interview: