Listening to classic punk stuff like this makes me feel old, and at this point that the best qualification I have: I’m expert in bands that couldn’t play a lick or make a buck but somehow changed the world. This product ties together two albums: Live & Loud originally released in 1987 and the 2000 compilation In a Can. The Ruts had their biggest success from 1977 to 1979 but were never in the first tier of performers in that fetid era.
The press kit mentions their reggae influence; although that not the first thought you have when listing to “Babylon Bringing” or “Something I Said”. The Rasta doesn’t kick in until “Jah War” but when it does, it’s the most powerful track in the collection, if only because you can hear what their singing about. The Ruts were as much a social conscience as any band of that era, nearly every song is about police abuse and lack of jobs or lack of food. It was powerful social dislocation that pushed the punks to sing about their misery.
Like many UK punk bands, they do a classic cover of an American tune; here’s its Elvis Presley’s “Blue Suede Shoes.” It seems like that was the key to mainstream airplay in the day: punk up some classic rock song, and aim for the novelty slot. They also cover The Damned’s “Love Song,” punk covers were a big part of the early days of most bands and often got them their first airplay. Interestingly this collection lacks “Staring at the Rude Boys”; that was the track that introduced me to the band in some bygone era. This is a competent and useful collection, but it’s not essential. The Live and Loud material is raw and energetic, the material from In A Can is much cleaner studio material, and both capture a band doing good work and receiving little to show for their efforts. I sure hope they get a few bucks for this re-release, they deserve it.