The Ruts - The Punk Singles Collection
The death of Ruts frontman Malcolm Owen in the summer of 1980 robbed punk of one its most engaging and well-loved characters. As many of the original punk bands fell by the wayside, bands like The Ruts continued to carry the torch when many listeners began to drift away to the emerging mod and skinhead revivals. They continue to be regarded with a massive well of affection by those who witnessed their incendiary live shows or ever heard the terrace chants of 'Babylon's Burning', a Top 10 hit in the summer of 1979.
Like many of their contemporaries The Ruts took the basic blueprint of The Clash's tough garage rock and fused it with dub and reggae. Early gigs with the likes of Misty In Roots confirmed their credentials but their one explicit reggae single - 'Jah War' - was one of their least successful, commercially at least.
This new collection rounds up all the tracks the band issued on 7", including a number appearing on CD for the first time. Debut single 'In A Rut' was typical of their output and immediately became a rallying cry for anyone caught up in a dead-end job or having to face the realities of life in provincial small towns. This concern for the common man was a thread that continued throughout much of their work, climaxing with "Staring At The Rude Boys", a Top 20 hit that called for inter-scene tolerance and unity ("The skins in the corner are staring at the bar / The rude boys are dancing to some heavy, heavy ska.") at a time when gigs were often riven with violence.
Completists will appreciate the inclusion of the post-Owen Ruts DC tracks, but their synth-heavy new wave sits uncomfortably with the rest of the set.
There are already a number of Ruts compilations on the market, but anyone yet to investigate the output of a band that bridged the divide between 1976 and the leather-jacketed hordes that typified punk in the early 80s, could do worse than start here.