Album Review: The Ruts – The Crack 40th Anniversary Reissue

  • Peter Hough posted
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The Ruts

The Crack 40th Anniversary Reissue - Virgin/EMI/UMC

Even if the rioting and racial tension that spawned Babylon’s Burning was not your personal experience, there was still a dark and apocalyptic urgency to that song that resonated far beyond the metropolitan wasteland it erupted from. By 1979 and the time The Crack was originally released, punk had already begun to diverge and fracture. Those on the Right were carving their own divisive and introspective niche; those on the Left were embracing the multiculturalism afforded them by punk’s original ability to break barriers and defy stereotypes. The Ruts were firmly on that side of the divide and The Crack, as a document, has much to say about the bleak time of its conception and the cross-fertilisation of musical influences punk facilitated. Flashforward 40 years and Babylon is still burning. The political dissatisfaction that fuelled The Ruts is alive and unhealthily well, and that makes this 40th anniversary reissue just as vital as it was originally.

Motives aside, this remastered edition of the album really highlights The Ruts‘ impressive musicality. Whatever your take on the politics, this is an album full of superlative musicianship, particularly when the band are experimenting as a unit with odd time signatures and dub-inspired, bass-driven grooves. Jah War particularly showcases the band’s love of reggae and through it, solidarity with those facing the evils of racist Britain. But The Ruts also rocked like bastards and songs like Criminal Minds, Something That I Said and Out Of Order are high-octane call-backs to the pub rock scene that spawned many of the vanguard of UK punk.

There’s also a poignancy in hearing again Malcolm Owen‘s furious street punk sermons, and Paul Fox remains one of the great unsung guitar heroes of British music. He had it all and on this remaster, you can really hear the beauty, power and intricacy of his work. His are some of the most recognisable and iconic riffs of the era. The Crack remains one of the most important albums of its time and this reissue reinforces the loss to music the band’s hiatus after Owen‘s death proved to be.

Ruts DC have pulled off an impossible trick. Despite having lost two seemingly irreplaceable members in Owen and Fox, Segs Jennings and Dave Ruffy have, with the recruitment of guitarist Leigh Heggarty, formed a unit worthy to carry The Ruts‘ legacy forward. Ruts DC touring The Crack this year is so much more than an anniversary outing or a nostalgia trip for old punks. It’s a vital and timely reminder that the old issues haven’t gone away. These angry songs, so redolent with menace, are timely again. And that makes the release of this remastered album as necessary again now as it was then.

The Crack is reissued on vinyl on the 8th February and can be pre-ordered here