The Ruts DC at The Underworld

The Ruts DC launched their new album ‘Music Must Destroy’ at The Underworld in Camden, London.



The Ruts DC


Following the release of their acclaimed Rhythm Collision 2 (2013), their book Love in Vain (2015) and several years of steady touring, The Ruts DC have clearly not been slack.

In fact they are finding themselves in a purple patch of creative infuriation, energy and introspection which, with the aid of crowd pledging, sees the release of their latest LP “Music Must Destroy” on Westworld/Sosumi recordings right now.

The album’s launch at Camden’s Underworld was another opportunity this year to see one of the best live bands play in their hometown of London.

Admittedly, a partisan punky crowd of ye olde faithful were on hand to ensure the band played to already cultivated ears, and the atmosphere was clearly celebratory party, old friends reunited and new acquaintances made.

To the happy chap who buttonholed me and pronounced “Damned, Lyceum, 1981!” I apologise, as I initially took that as a veiled architectural threat and not the badge of Ruts-related camaraderie and recall inferred. I checked the diary mate and it was probably both July dates that you were using me as your pogo lauchpad by the way.

Anyroad – I digress.

Picture the scene, Camden, Friday night, hot humid and going underground with a bunch of rockers that probably couldn’t be found anywhere else in town that sultry evening.

Department S

Support was from a surprisingly youthful looking Department S, (yes – Vic Was There).
They imbued the spirit of Boots green hair gel, Jimmy Page licks and enigmatic audience stares to good effect and were well received especially given a lot of their tunes were fresh. Must check out their new LP too I thought.

But no time pondering and gabbing at the bar ladeez and gentlepunks…by the time the first few bars of West One (Shine on Me) rang out the throng had already rushed the floor (surprising really considering the aged demographic) and amassed under the rafters as the three piece launched into a blisteringly full and well-structured set.

The Ruts DC have already a decent of back catalogue to rummage through and, with all ten new virgin tracks of the new LP segued into their set, we were presented with 100+ minutes (including two raucous encores) to invoke our inner human punk, roots reggae shuffle or best singalong voice. Though I would not be stupid enough to throw my pint of lager stagewards nowadays (ahem), it was good to sense that such merriment was all around and the band fed off it lavishly.

Now I have to confess, I have seen The Ruts DC more times than I can count on bodily digits and I have a very soft spot for them, their backstory and sound. This band is tight, extremely talented and never disappoint, yet tonight they were on a higher level.

And more than that, Segs Jennings, Dave Ruffy and Leigh Heggarty are fantastic human beings, incredibly witty on stage, easily approachable and they don’t suffer that sense of self that most other bands do. No doubt due to their wise years, this rinses out in their set - a set full of new/old markers and reminders of the frustration of the 80s and naughties. That sense that history has repeated and we need to wake up and get with it again. Not that we weren’t already stirred up.

The Ruts DC

The new tracks are blended to us fairly quickly – Vox Teardrop (an early hard rock romp) slotted before Mighty Soldier and the head-pitching classic SUS, whilst the fading strains of It Was Cold lead into the new melodic Tears On Fire. Clearly playing out the new tracks is no easy task but the band must have been well pleased with the response they got.

The early set was interspersed with subtle witty references to Bowie, Brain Jones (Tears On Fire), Bolan, Jah Wobble and the Velvets amongst others. Segs laying down his thought trains that not only coalesced into the new LPs DNA yet revealed his inner impishness.

Talking of which, it’s not long before we are introduced to new collaborator Dave (guitar), who takes his welcome applause towards far stage left where he sets about immediately getting to know the crowd through some amusing facial expressions whilst navigating and filling out the newer tracks.
Notable for his parents being younger than the band members themselves, this is none the worse, as another aural and theatrical dimension is revealed.

Dave’s rock stance and tongue bulging guitar shredding is a novel development and one that not only underlines the core three piece’s ability to collaborate when they require, but to blood some young pedigree into the Ruts-realm.

The sound was top notch tonight. Some minor tech issues, relating to some pre-recorded layered sounds, meant the finer flourishes of a couple of new tracks (Soft City Lights, PeaceBomb) were unforthcoming. Apologetic though the band were, they played on and the audience were none the wiser. Given our expectation of a thoroughly “analogue” rock n roll set – the digital extra just didn’t matter. Though it will be interesting to see how this pans out sonically in later gigs.

There is also another fuller dimension to the band nowadays as witnessed in the new track Secondhand Child. Writing a story about abuse is chilling enough, yet highlights the songwriting skill and emotional depth that this band can and do reach.

The Ruts DC

By the time the title track, and new single, Music Must Destroy appears, many of us look around to see if Henry Rollins is going to materialise (as seen on the recent Youtube video). Now this track actually feels very at home, surrounded by their other joyous live punk classic standards and I wasn’t the first to grasp we were witnessing another Ruts-stamped anthem.

Much loved ex-Ruts members, Malcolm Owen (Love in Vain) and Paul Fox (Golden Boy - a new ballad) were remembered and are always present in spirit at all gigs and such a longing tribute is surely testament to this band’s ability to survive and re-engage their legacy.

Jah War, a clear crowd fave, never sounded more prescient and reggae-roasty especially considering it was 37 years ago now that Clarence Baker took the baton against a corrupt police force. Sounds familiar somehow. (Yes, Segs sang baton, not truncheon I swear).
And with classics Rude Boys, Babylons Burning, Psychic Attack and In a Rut rounding out a sweaty night it was hard not to leave the venue without plenty of dissenting earworms and a grin to bare.

These days, punky reggae does not necessarily register on the gogglebox as it did whence I was a cheeky nipperpunk. Fact is I don’t know what sonically (g)rocks the youngsters and their iPhone insulated fascinations, suffice to say there are a lot of new disaffected youth out there on the blocks who would do well to see and hear The Ruts DC play their roots music.

For right now, as the band even appreciate themselves, it is as if 40 years of rebellion has almost meant for nothing as we are facing a form of control, with a different corporate face, that we need to continue to kick against. Discussions abounded in the crowd about the need for a new reboot of the Rock Against Racism gigs and perhaps that seed is being planted. Let’s hope so.

The Ruts DC

Interestingly with a full support slot on the Spring 2017 Stranglers tour just announced, it will be tempting to see if The Ruts DC can expand their current great form and bag some old/new converts along the way and allow the burn of Music Must Destroy to catch light.

For, like The Ruts DC, The Stranglers are enduring punks with a well-trodden tranche of fine work behind them and still lots to say. The stages will be bigger but the message will get across further.

If you are reading this, you will probably already know and love The Ruts DC and have the new LP already spinning on your turntable in all its double red vinyl 45rpm glory.

If not put it on your list of must-buys this year as he new LP is clearly a varied mix of emotions and by my reckoning, The Crack Mk2 in its stimulations and choreography.

What you really need to do however, is go and see them live (again) and drag your cultured mates, teen drones and the next door neighbour along too, because this is urban rebellion and passion and skill and fun and mighty righteousness to boot.

Music Must Destroy and it creates our future too.

Set List

West One (Shine On me)
Vox Teardrop
Might Soldier
No Time To Kill
It Was Cold
Tears On Fire
Soft City Lights
Second Hand Child
Music Must Destroy
Love In Vain
Jah War
Psychic Attack
Staring At the Rude Boys
Babylon’s Burning

Golden Boy
Kill the Pain

Something That I Said
In A Rut

*Upcoming gigs - The Ruts DC. You can order ‘Music Must Destroy’ on CD, Vinyl, or DL.