Review Summary: A debut that shines and demonstrates a punk band with more ability then most.
The Ruts originally formed in London 1977. From the ashes of another group which included Paul Fox (guitar) and Dave Ruffy (bass). They soon recruited Malcolm Owen, a jazz and funk enthusiast, on vocals. Ruffy moved to drums and John “Segs” Jennings filled in on bass. They were signed to reggae label; People Unite and completed the excellent single In A Rut. DJ John Peel received a copy and played the hell out of it, which made people more aware of the band. They were playing Rock Against Racism gigs and were soon signed to Virgin Records. This leads us to their debut album The Crack
The Crack was preceded by the single Babylon’s Burning. A top 10 hit that made the band one of the largest punk bands in the country. It was an excellent choice for a single and a great choice for the album’s opener. The song kicks-off with police sirens and then leaps in to a punk thrash, with a reggae bass line and a great use of Ruffy’s hi-hat. The song itself is about being caught up in a riot. It is a great punk single and recommended to anyone who is in to punk. The Record also features many other great punk songs. Such as You’re Just A… , which did feature the c word until Owen dropped it. Savage Circle is another great punk track. A very powerful song with pounding toms and a rumbling bass line. A sound which sets them apart from their other, more basic second wave punk peers. Out Of Order is another great punk tune. With all the speed you’d expect from a punk band. The last track Human Punk, which is live, is a heavy punk tune that features the crowd joining in on the chorus
This album also features some great rock tunes of the time. Something That I Said, the next single which reached No.29. Is just a joy to listen to. Paul Fox’s riff is just awesome. The song was also deeply influenced by their love of glam rock, which you can almost hear in it. Owen is also at his peak at vocals. Criminal Mind, which almost sounds like heavy metal, is another more rock based tune. There is also the outstanding Backbiter. Which is again Owens vocals at their best.
The Ruts are also one of the few punk bands, along with The Clash, who could successfully blend punk and reggae. Jah War, the last single from the album, is a perfect example, dub bass lines, horns and timbales. The song is a perfect dub-reggae song. It is about the unrest in the Southhall riots at the time. There are many other great reggae songs S.U.S. sounds sinister and dark and is a reference to the unpopular s.u.s. law at the time which entitled cops to search people, simply for looking “suspicious”. There is also It Was Cold which is another dark sounding dub number. Dope For Guns is a great track. Potent and plucky, with punk energy. It has more of a ska punk feel.
In conclusion this is a straight up punk classic, that I recommend to everyone who likes punk, rock or reggae. Malcolm Owen’s lyrics are incredible, featuring political strife; Babylon’s Burning, S.U.S., Jah War. To personal relationships; Something That I Said, Backbiter, You’re Just A. To the punk movement itself; Human Punk. He also has an uncanny ability to sing reggae well, which is odd for a white man. But on the whole his voice is explosive, raucous and exciting. Paul Fox is a great guitar player. Incredible riffs and melodies. Particularly in Babylon’s Burning , Something That I Said and Dope For Guns. He also has a great skill at playing reggae, especially in Jah War. John Jennings plays awesome reggae/dub bass lines. Which are predominant in most of the songs. Dave Ruffy is a superb drummer with an ability to bring imagination to songs. Check out Savage Circle, Jah War and Babylon’s Burning. He also use his timbales and china cymbal more frequently then most drummers. Also his use of toms is impeccable. The Ruts were a force to be reckoned with and I can’t stress that enough. It was a shame their career was cut short by Owens early death of an over-dose which was ironic after he condemned drugs in Dope For Guns and H-Eyes. The Crack is an album that gets better with each listen and shows a band mature in song-writing and musical ability. You just have to hear it to believe it.
Dope For Guns
Something That I Said
You’re Just A…