Artist: The Ruts
Album: The Crack
One of the biggest drawbacks to the punk explosion of the late 1970's and early 1980's is the fact that, in many cases, the most talented bands gained the least exposure. While nobody will argue that The Clash and other mass-appeal "punk" bands were amazing, many equally talented bands never saw the light of day. One of these bands that went relatively unknown was the UK quartet, The Ruts. Their 1979 debut, The Crack, is easily one of the finest punk records ever as well as a clear foundation for what would become "speed metal" and "speed punk."
While many bands take a few albums to reach their full musical potential, The Ruts were ready right out of the gate. Powerful guitar, lightning fast drumming, and lyrics that are both politically fueled, as well as those that beg to be yelled by crowds, The Crack has all of the elements of a great rock record. At many points, The Crack, has an almost heavy metal sound (in the spirit of Motorhead) to it, though it never deviates from being a punk record in both sound and style. This is one of the elements that sets the album aside from its peers. While the core is certainly punk, the record is clearly drawing from the "rock" side of things more than the punk side. If you look at the long term lineage of music, one can make the argument that The Crack was one of the building blocks of speed metal as much as the post-punk movement.
For a band that was recording their first album, it is stunning how musically mature they were. Their songs are complex, featuring tempo shifts and musical patterns and movements well beyond the furthest parameters of "punk." The band even "jams" on tracks like "Jah War," which is pretty much unheard of (if not frowned upon ) within the punk genre. Musically, The Ruts are built around the brilliant, grimy guitar work of the late Paul Fox. From blistering solos to crushing chords, Fox pushes the songs faster and faster and give the band their signature sound. Drummer Dave Ruffy and bassist "Segs" Jennings, phenomenal in their own right, create one of the finest rhythm sections to come out of the UK.
Vocalist Malcolm Owen provides the perfect voice for the high octane music that the band was producing. Somewhere between singing and screaming, Owen's vocals give the music more of a sense of urgency, and the way he delivers the lyrics makes everyone want to sing along. Lyrically, the band shines with songs of rebellion and everything that is great about the punk spirit. They are songs of "everyman" and highlight many of the issues that both young people as well as those marginalized by society were experiencing at the time. One of the most significant lyrics are those on the track "S.U.S." Short for "suspect," the song is a protest against the "sus laws" of the UK that pretty much made it legal for cops to arrest anyone they thought "looked suspicious."
While most people do not consider the punk rock movement as innovative or a "step" towards another genre, the truth is, when you look past the "popular" punk groups, the genre was as inventive as any other. A blend between The Ramones and Motorhead, The Ruts can certainly be seen as the founders of "speed metal" and "speed punk." With its edgy, universal appeal, their 1979 debut, The Crack, is an absolute masterpiece and everyone should know the album, regardless of musical preference.
Standout tracks: "S.U.S.," "Something That I Said," and "Savage Circle."