Monday, September 11, 2006
In a scene where even the most obscure privately pressed 7'' has seemingly either been reissued, bootlegged or made available on the net, it’s unusual to find a release from one of ‘the big name’ punk bands is not only deleted but harder to hunt down than a record that only had a few hundred copies pressed, but that appears to be the case when it comes to the first Ruts D.C album, ‘Animal Now’.
The original Ruts were a big name on the late seventies music scene. Not only did they score a number of genuine hit records but almost alone out of the second wave UK punk bands, they were also acclaimed by critics at the time. Signed to a major label and benefiting from a big budget production, the bands mastery of reggae was better than any other punk band while staples such as ‘Babylon’s Burning’ and ‘Staring At The Rude Boys’ were anything but punk by numbers. The Ruts sole album, ‘The Crack’, is a classic while later songs such as ‘West One’ and the moving ‘Love In Vain’ show how this great band would have progressed if tragedy hadn’t been waiting around the corner with the death of charismatic but troubled singer Malcolm Owen.
The remaining Ruts, Segs Jennings, Dave Ruffy and Paul Fox with the addition of sax player Gary Barnacle, tried to keep things going using the name Ruts D.C but the success of The Ruts eluded them and their recorded output remains largely forgotten. Many people at the time found it hard to give credit to the ‘The Ruts’ without Malcolm Owen and maybe it was a mistake not to make a clean break from the past but at it’s best, Ruts D.C’s music sounds like the natural progression for the band. Debut single ‘Different View’ with it’s great flipside ‘Formula Eyes’ is an excellent follow up to the final Owen era single ‘West One’, while the album ‘Animal Now’ also contains many fine moments such as ‘Mirror Smashed’ and the extended, superior take of ‘Different View’.
I’m not going to pretend this is a lost classic as there are some weaker moments as the album progresses and only nine songs suggests that the band may have been running short of material, but for the most part ‘Animal Now’ only adds to the Ruts legacy. The sense of dynamics and ear for a great tune are all present and correct and while it is difficult at times not to imagine how the best songs here would have sounded with Malcolm Owen on board, Segs Jennings does a fine job on vocals.
Less obviously ‘punk’ while still obviously The Ruts, ‘Animal Now’ is the bands final rock album. Subsequent releases saw the band fade into relative obscurity as they followed their love of reggae and dub. The band still commands respect in punk, reggae and dance music circles though and various members have worked with amongst others, the Chemical Brothers, Aztec Camera, Adam Ant and Kirsty Macoll. Here though is the Ruts final punk hurrah. Get it while you can:
Ruts D.C-‘Animal Now’ with bonus single & demo tracks.
Back in the mid nineties, a late friend of mine, Chris Jones, interviewed Segs Jennings and Dave Ruffy. The interview which covers both The Ruts and Ruts D.C can be found here.
(Many thanks to S! for his help with this post.)