Ruts DC take the stage of Reading's SUB89 to a Reggae version of "Love Will Tear Us Apart" and launch into "Faces In The Sky" from the excellent new album "CounterCulture?" It's a slow-burning paranoid number with a throbbing undertow and a snaking Middle-Eastern guitar riff. A brilliant start to a blistering set from Ruts DC as they continued on part two of their "CounterCulture?/Faces In The Sky" U.K. tour. The band are looking very cool, Dave Ruffy in particular is looking in great shape. Then there's Segs in fedora and shades underpining everything with his superb bass playing and excellent voice. Guitarist Leigh Heggarty in black and white polka dot shirt, waistcoat, trilby and round shades is every inch the guitar hero and there's a great chemistry and interplay between the three of them. Next up it's "S.U.S.", "You're Just A..." and "It Was Cold", a triple hit of tracks from their classic album "The Crack" and you realise, probably a little sadly, that the topics The Ruts tackled at the time of recording the album are unfortunately, still all too prevalent today. Certainly, "S.U.S." seems as relevant now as it did 40 years ago and of course "Jah War" too and the haunting line "when the truncheon came down and knocked him to the ground" could be a line from the brand new record.
Dave Ruffy jokingly comments after "No Time To Kill" from 1981's "Animal Now" that when they wrote the song they thought it would end all war and they thought Rock Against Racism would end racism. Sadly, some forty years later nothing much has changed but Ruts DC certainly haven't given up on trying and their protest songs that are packed full of social conscience are needed now more than ever. The new album "CounterCulture?" is probably more musically diverse and adds more Reggae and Dub elements to the intense sonic attack of the last album "Music Must Destroy" and this mix of new material perfectly complements the old classics so that the set-list is a seamless non-stop delight of musical gems one after another. I was really pleased they included "Poison Games", one of my favourites from the new album and "Kill The Pain" in particular is a masterclass in anthemic songwriting. Segs and Leigh swapped instruments for a rare run through of "Despondency" from "Animal Now", Leigh proving that he's a pretty damn good bassist too.
Of course, I've waxed lyrical many times in these pages of how impressive I think Leigh's guitar work is - not just in replicating Paul Fox's iconic sound on the older nunbers but in the way he's stamped his own identity on the current Ruts DC. I noted a nifty bit of Wilko Johnson style simultaneous rhythm and lead riffing on "Jah War" that was pretty special. The great thing about live music is that it's sometimes the unexpected and out of the blue moments that really hit you and tonight it's "Pretty Lunatics", the low key campfire singalong from the new album. Kind of like The Soundtrack of Our Lives "The Passover" or Pixies "Where Is My Mind?" which on record might seem pleasant and unassuming songs but become transformed into mightily effective and emotional crowd favourites when played live. Of course, we do get the run of classic Ruts singles "Babylon's Burning", "Staring At The Rude Boys", "Something That I Said" and "West One (Shine On Me)" which go down a storm with the adoring crowd as you would expect, but it's the strenght of the new material that really impresses. Certainly, Ruts DC are going from strength to strength and are as vital and relevant today as they have ever been.
Don't forget our two special Retrosonic Podcast specials with Leigh Heggarty are still available, always a thoroughly entertaining guest, you can listen/stream download from Spotify or our Soundcloud archive here. For more information on Ruts DC and how to order "CounterCulture?" please check out their official web-site here. Before the show, Leigh introduced me to Roland Link author of the definitive story of The Ruts and Ruts DC "Love In Vain" which is a must-have for any Ruts fan - check it out here if you haven't already got a copy. You can hear Dennis Lyxzén from The (International) Noise Conspiracy and Refused on his new Wingmen style 'supergroup' Fake Names (which features members of Minor Threat, Bad Religion and Fugazi) talking about the impact that The Ruts had on their new band and the 80's Washington DC Hardcore Punk scene in our recent Retrosonic Podcast here. You can see more videos from the show by subscribing to our Retromanblog65 YouTube channel here
It was great to see TV Smith again too - I enjoyed his set with a full band supporting the original line-up of The Damned at Hammersmith Apollo but now he's back solo, just him and his acoustic guitar opening up on a few few dates during the tour. It was a great set that included the best of his solo career including "Expensive Being Poor", "Generation Y", "Immortal Rich" and one of my personal favourites, "You Saved My Life Then Ruined It" and included some promising new songs, with one in particular going down well called "One Minute To Midnight". Despite the quailty of the solo material, inevitably it's The Adverts classics that get the best reaction and the timeless appeal of "Gary Gilmore's Eyes", "One Chord Wonders", "Safety In Numbers" and "No Time To Be 21" prove what an underated band The Adverts were. Like Ruts DC, TV Smith's politically charged protest songs are needed now more than ever and it's refreshing and inspiring to know that the fire still burns bright in both. You can listen to our Retrosonic Podcast special with TV Smith in our archive here.
You can see more videos from the show by subscribing to our Retromanblog65 YouTube channel here.
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