THE RUTS DC - MUSIC MUST DESTROY
The Ruts were a band that never took any shit. Back when they started playing live in the late 70's, gigs, and especially punk gigs, were scary places to be. You usually took your life in your hands attending and ran a fare chance of coming home with a few less teeth than when you went out. Whilst several bands, such as The Clash, tried to quell the violence by actively pleading with their audience, many were, at best, ambivalent to the melee unfolding in the crowd. But not The Ruts. Whilst not actively seeking or condoning aggro, led by their man-mountain singer Malcolm Owen, they were more than capable of looking after themselves should the need arise.
On a dark, cold and wet evening in 1979 I went along to Cardiff University intending to enjoy two of the best punk bands around at that time. The Damned, fresh from their reformation, were headlining whilst the aforementioned Ruts opened proceedings. Unfortunately, no one had told a certain section of the audience that this was supposed to be a pleasurable experience, as they laid boots and fists into anybody within close proximity. Back then there were no crash barriers at the front of the stage, only a thin line made up of innocent students and the band's road crew separating bands from the crowd. Tension mounted as several short haired attendees made a nuisance of themselves with acts of random violence. In fairness to Malcolm he gave them more than one warning but, after one too many casual punches, the band fought back. I still remember the house lights going out, darkness ensuing, the sound of instruments hitting the floor and band members silhouettes jumping from the stage. Fast forward a minute or so and normality, of a sort, had resumed with the lights re-established and the band back on the stage. But not so for several of the wannabe pugilists as they departed the scene dragging the rather dazed torso of their leader with them. Instant karma!
Sadly, despite the commercial success they were shortly to gain - Babylon's Burning, Staring at the Rude Boys, West One etc - Malcolm wasn't to be with us much longer. Whilst the band continued on after his sad demise as the Ruts DC, by 1982 the game was up and they disbanded. In 2007 they played once again. However, this was not the celebration it should have been as they had reformed, with Henry Rollins on vocals, as a benefit for guitarist Paul Fox's who was battling cancer. Sadly, it was a fight he would ultimately lose the same year. Thereafter, the two remaining founder members, bass player John "Segs" Jennings and drummer Dave Ruffy, only intermittently recorded and played the occasional gig.
So it was a pleasant surprise to receive an advance copy of their new CD "Music Must Destroy" recently. Now a threesome, being augmented by Leigh Heggarty on guitar, the album boast collaborators such as Boz Boorer (Morrissey and Adam Ant), Captain Sensible (The Damned), Jake Burns (Stiff Little Fingers), Kirk Brandon (Spear of Destiny) and, once again, Henry Rollins (Black Flag).
Starting with the thunderous roar of drums and bass line, opening track and single "Psychic Attack" delivers an aural punk rock punch to the guts. Slower, but no less anthemic, "Music Must Destroy" is darn catchy. The distorted vocoder-like vocals give it a different feel to the Ruts of old, but the repeated chant of "We are not your property!" show that the band have lost none of the fire in their bellies. "Surprise" starts with an almost Stone Roses "I am the Resurrection" beginning, but this doesn't last long and another mid to fast tempo number ensues, resplendent with Banshee/Cure guitars, whilst "Second Hand Child" has an almost mid-80's AOR feel
Soft City Lights" with an opening reminiscent of "It was Cold" from their debut album "The Crack", transported me back to those heady days of the late 70s when bands like The Ruts created a seismic shift in British music. "Kill the Pain" delivers another fast paced, adrenaline fuelled slice of good old punk rock, whilst "Peace Bomb" is a slower tempo. Bizarrely, whether due to the sound or subject matter, I could see John Lennon performing it in his heyday.
"Tears on Fire" is almost psychedelic at times and penultimate track "The Vox Teardrop" also has a strange, sci-fi intro, but soon settles into a rattling good four minutes of heavy rock. The band have chosen a slow number to finish in "Golden Boy" that works well after the maelstrom of noise that had preceded it on the album. Give the lyrics, I can't help thinking that some of the words refer the wasted potential of dear old Malcolm.
So there you have it, one of the leaders of the second wave of punk still going strong. Whilst they will never be able to replace their fallen comrades, nor do I expect they want to, it's good to see them able to still crank out first class punk rock and maintain a presence on the live circuit. I'm sure Malcolm and Paul are smiling down on the legacy the Ruts DC continue to create.
RIP Malcolm and Paul