REVIEW: Ruts DC - Music Must Destroy

Ruts DC - Music Must Destroy (Westworld/Sosumi Recordings).
Ruts DC - Music Must Destroy (Westworld/Sosumi Recordings).

Ruts DC are enjoying a new lease of life at a time when other bands who've been through what they've endured would be happily retired.

Formed in Southall, West London, in 1977 as The Ruts, they were one of the era's finest exponents of punky-reggae fusion.

An explosive live proposition, they released a series of excellent singles including In A Rut, Babylon's Burning and Staring At The Rude Boys.

Tragedy struck when frontman Malcolm Owen died of a heroin overdose in 1980, while they were making their second album, and many thought that was 'game over' for a band whose flame had burned so bright.

They hadn't reckoned on their resilience, however, and the three remaining members changed their name to Ruts DC (D.C. standing for the Italian term 'da capo', or 'back to the beginning') and soldiered on in a slightly different musical vein.

They split in 1983, and that was that until they reconvened 24 years later to play a benefit gig for guitarist Paul Fox, who had terminal cancer, and sadly died just a few months later.

The surviving Ruts, bassist John "Segs" Jennings and drummer Dave Ruffy, recorded some tracks which were eventually released as a dub album, and returned to playing live in 2011, where they found there was still a demand to hear their old songs.

With the addition of Leigh Heggarty on guitar, they've been a going concern ever since, and are a prime example of a band getting a second chance, and loving every minute of it.

Playing the old songs live made them want to make a new record, rather than just being part of a nostalgia scene, and this is the result.

Don't expect a punk or reggae album though, as there's little of either to be found here, it's a straightforward rock record, and a very good one.

Lead single Psychic Attack, which opens proceedings, shows they mean business from the off, as it rushes by in three minutes of adrenalized guitar fury.

There's no let-up as the title track follows in similar juddering vein, while the excellent Surprise shows that Heggarty is just as good a player as the highly-regarded Fox.

Second-Hand Child slows things down a bit, while Soft City Lights celebrates their rebirth and defies the passing of the years, insisting: "I ain't got time to weep and wait, for the executioner".

The swaggering Kill The Pain is perhaps the album's highpoint, and is already going down a storm in their live set, while Peace Bomb lays down a delicious psychedelic groove.

The closing track, the acoustic Golden Boy, is a real tearjerker, reflecting on those they've lost, and forgiving them their weaknesses: "You ingest the poison seed, create your world of fake belief ...who knows what could have been, yes, we learned to love you."

The esteem in which Ruts DC are held is shown by the cast of guest musicians, including Boz Boorer (Morrissey), Captain Sensible (The Damned), Jake Burns (Stiff Little Fingers), Kirk Brandon (Spear of Destiny) and Henry Rollins (Black Flag), who filled in for the much-missed Owen at that Paul Fox benefit gig back in 2007.

That legendary show was the spark which rekindled interest in a band who deserved not to become a mere musical footnote, and this album will ensure they are remembered as one who made the most of their second chance. 8/10.