Ruts DC - Rhythm Collision Volume 2
“White trash” was how John Lydon, with typical restraint, described punk bands that dabbled in reggae. True, you had the likes of Sting hitting pay dirt with an ill-judged cod Jamaican accent, but some punk forays into reggae and dub were successful. Ruts DC, formed after the death of Ruts lead singer, Malcolm Owen, in 1980, did it better than most. The key was to glean the sonic magic by working with bona-fide reggae artists themselves: The Clash had Lee Perry and Mikey Dread, The Slits had Dennis Bovell, and Ruts DC teamed up with the virtually unknown Guyana-born Londoner Mad Professor. The result, Rhythm Collision Volume 1, was a vibrant fusion of dub reggae and mutant funk, finding a perfect synergy in Mad Professor’s heavy production and the drum and bass work of Dave Ruffy and John Segs respectively.
Mad Professor went on to record his series of John Peel-championed Dub Me Crazy albums, as well as working with Lee Perry and Massive Attack. As for Ruts DC? Well, over 30 years later, we have Rhythm Collision Volume 2. In terms of follow-ups, it makes My Bloody Valentine look prolific. With such a long gap, there’s a danger of the album becoming an exercise in nostalgia; happily, that’s not the case. That’s partly helped by the fundamentals of dub never dating, but also because a series of collaborators - including Brixton MC Tenor Fly, Alabama 3 frontman Rob Love, and dancehall star Aynzli Jones - provide a vibrant vocal presence full of political polemic. ‘Smiling Culture’ is a standout, a lament about the controversial death of British toaster Smiley Culture, with Love narrating the verses in the style of a policeman’s testimony over mournful keyboard, whereas Tenor Fly gets righteous on the anti-interventionist single ‘Mighty Soldier’ in between pleas to “Lay down your gun / Where you go run now the battle been won?”. Elsewhere, Jessica McIntyre guests on the doomy dub of ‘The Road’, which sounds like St Etienne on a downer and is almost as bleak as the Cormac McCarthy novel of the same name.
Production duties are split between Mad Professor, Prince Fatty and Greg Wizard, yet the album retains an even flow throughout, highlighted particularly on the stripped-back dub tracks. Guitarist Leigh Heggarty also provides some inventive guitar lines, surfing above the woozy waves of keyboard, drum and bass. It’s to the credit of all involved that, despite (or perhaps because of) the unplanned, sprawling nature of the recording sessions, it all holds together.
“Technology moving fast” sings Jones on ‘Technology’; it’s a near-Luddite sentiment, but the old-skool flow of Rhythm Collision Volume 2 serves to convince. Never mind your dubstep, here’s Ruts DC.