UK punk veterans Ruts DC – formerly, as I’m sure you’re aware, The Ruts – return after a short hiatus to present an album of all new music for a new generation of punks. But was it worth the wait?
Largely yes, but perhaps not for the reasons you’re expecting. Shorn of two original members (the band originally split in the eighties after the heroin-assisted death of vocalist Malcolm Owen; guitarist Paul Fox succumbed to Lung Cancer in 2009), the band isn’t quite the exercise in all-out piss and vinegar it used to be. Psychic Attack and Music Must Destroy, the opening two tracks, make for an aggressive start, the latter featuring a cameo from Henry Rollins who stood in for Owen on vocals when the band reformed in 2007. But after that things get more varied, as the band spread their wings and visit a few musical stops you might not associate with a couple of old punks.
Surprise and Second Hand Child carry surprise elements of Madchester, especially in the leery vocal of John ‘Segs’ Jennings. In fact, the whole of the rest of the album comes across as something that might have come out from the Liverpool/Manchester scenes of the late eighties/early nineties sonically. Only the salty socialism of the lyrics being a giveaway that this is in fact one of the great old agit punk bands of yore.
Kill the Pain packs more of a direct punch, but conversely that directness makes it slightly less interesting than the less angry tracks. It’s a common problem for bands that made a name for themselves on the back of a street viper attitude with musical chops to match at a distance of five decades ago, and sadly the band don’t always overcome the generational change they themselves have undertaken on Music Must Destroy.
Peace Bomb is perhaps the most successful at bridging the two Ruts eras, a bubbling reggae bassline and faint dub effects reminding you that the best Ruts music was always rooted in cross cultural exchange, the vocal line ‘the enemy remains the same’ confirming that nothing much has changed societally since the band trod the boards as The Ruts all those years ago. But then the album trickles away slightly, with only the crashing powerchords and Keith Moon style drumming of Vox Teardrop rousing the listener from their reverie.
Not at all bad, then, but if you’re looking for a new Babylon’s Burning or Staring at the Rude Boys you’re in for a disappointment.
Music Must Destroy is out now on Westworld Recordings