If you came into the world at the dawn of the original British punk movement, then your introduction most likely came at a time when dub was seen as a natural relative to the high intensity of punk’s ‘three chords and the truth’ central theme.
Driven by the Rastafarian rude boy spirit of rebellion, dub became a central influence for the young punk upstarts in need of sticking it to the man and committing themselves to a life of activism. Spurred by such a rasta influence, and possibly the punks who took the dub sound to it’s zenith, The Ruts ended the 1970s with a unique sound that blended the British punk spirit with deep Jamaican dub; their sound was punk, but not as we knew it. Their sound was punk in spirit, dub in style. Their sound was perfectly encapsulate into their debut, and classic album, ‘The Crack’.
Twelve years after their reformation, and forty years since the release of ‘The Crack’, The Ruts (now officially ‘The Ruts DC’) returned to Newcastle willing to carry on with their public service announcement with bass guitars. The times may have changed but perhaps the need for aggressive, self-reflective music, has not.
Heavily influenced by ‘The Crack’ tonight’s set list sees the band play every track from their debut; ‘Something that I said’ and ‘Babylon’s Burning’ both stealing the evening for their call and response audience moments, as well as their thundering bass lines which gets the packed out Riverside bouncing. Interestingly it’s not just the greatest hits which shine brightest tonight, ‘Jah War’ and ‘It was cold’ both sound and feel relevant in today’s climate and elicit serious participation from the crowd; perhaps tracks about fighting for your freedom never go out of fashion!? Certainly they don’t seem to with the generation x punks.
Refusing to simply look backwards, tonight sees the DC’s pay homage to their classic album whilst still searching for new ways to present it’s core themes; a theme made obvious given the on stage announcements and rallying calls by the band in a move which clearly attempts to evade the dangers of retro-worship and nostalgia. Indeed tonight seems to be an attempt to continue the bands punk themes started 40 years ago, evidenced not just by the bands messages but also their decision to play tracks from their most recent album; ‘Music must destroy’ proving most impactful and creating further dancefloor bouncing.
Across the evening The Ruts produce a show that is vital and energetic; their sound driven constantly forward by aggressive on stage playing and a walking bass line that slaps the audience into both skanking and pogoing. Perhaps they don’t make albums like ‘The Crack’ anymore, or perhaps albums aren’t as important as they once were, but what tonight proves is that once you write an album that connects with people, it barely leaves them. Perhaps 40 is the new 20 after all.