“40 years worth of love and half blind adoration has gathered us here to sing to hymns from ‘The Crack'; The Ruts ’79 debut album. Thick with punk’s grit and gristle and dub-reggae tricks it’s a head above pure protest thrash.”
I’m crammed in a jam of star studded leather, patches, black denim, gelled spikes and mowhawks. Crammed in a jam puts it lightly. No square inch of floor, wall or rafter is free, there’s barely the space to raise can to mouth. It’s a clear fifteen minutes until Ruts DC play and everyone’s stacked front to back… The faithful, fanatics, this crushed congregation of Human Punk hums like a hive of exposed expectation.
40 years worth of love and half blind adoration has gathered us here to sing to hymns from The Crack; The Ruts ’79 debut album. This review could end there …on the power and the strength to sell out a venue a lifetime since those songs were made. Imagine making something that makes you embrace it so hard that it sticks for that long, that deserves its own sound applause.
I guess this evening’s question is how it holds up. How it’s played, how it’s heard and how it hangs in new light. It’s being played all way through, the whole album in order, see if I can’t give some kind of answer.
I’m newish to The Ruts. I know of them in cannons of punk history’s legacy, their name, place and time but not so much the music. I got to grips with the tracks leading up to the gig; a cool aggressive jagged-spike mix heavy with dub-reggae tricks. Thick with 1978/79’s grit and gristle, it’s a head above pure protest thrash. You could say aggression with purpose; stylised, tempered and torn.
And just like the album, sirens start wailing, alarm bells ring heavy, every type of emergency sound crank up to a clattered cacophony. Blue and white and red lights spin to the split of the howl and the din and Babylon’s Burning begins. Frantic splashes and hats part for pent up tom breaks and baselines bounce a walk at the speed of a chase. Pinched guitar crunches on tight wound delay leave just enough space for quick breathing. It’s fast and it’s neat in its thrill, slamming right into the next.
Dope For Guns run the same pace, threading the pinch and the pressure. These three gents on stage defy signs of age as they run through the heat and the frantic. This hits me again and again, as I trade sight of stage for a place to make notes I forget the age and the looks… Sounding so fresh and unfaltering I forget it’s a legacy band. Every time I catch sight I’m surprised.
In the fringes those dub hints start subtle; that clean guitar delay, a few rhythmic snare snaps, the space that gets given for quick draws of air. It’s a long way from ska-punk, an alternate world, with easyness on loan and woven throughout. Catch a glimpse and they’re gone in the grasp of the noise until Jah War lays bare it’s influence.
Jah War is as smooth as it gets, away from the snapping and spit riddled punk we move cool in straight up dub territory. The cross over tilts and shifts weight, from dub tinged punk to punk tinged dup and we start to sway sweet in lose reverb and rhythms. London’s late 70’s outsider bedfellows, punk and reggae strewn into eachother, ’til the weighting snaps back in the other direction and Criminal Mind comes in hacking.
There’s an obvious thrill in the crowd, the album is nearing its end. And once it’s wrapped up there’s still plenty to come after hails and howled rounds of applause. Respects are paid to departed members before moving to other material. We’re In A Rut is a degenerate’s anthem of sniping and self degradation, Music Must Destroy is a charm and a highlight of Ruts DCs new incarnation. But how does it hold up and hang? I’m still not sure I can answer… I might be the only person who didn’t know these songs from some life or some time ago and so I’m looking in from outside.
For me it’s a chance to catch up with a past but whatever we took home was ours. And there is something sweet about watching grown punks showing you’re never too old to have idles.
Ruts DC played Rescue Rooms, Nottingham on Feb 26th, 2019.