CD Reviews: Memos From the Underground II


Album reviews by Tim Livingston

Some recent album releases that you may have missed, but are all well-worth a listen:

RUTS DC: Music Must Destroy (Restricted Release)

One of the early punk bands, the Ruts had so much promise. Their 1979 full length release The Crack was a powerful punch of punk and edgy reggae that combined with a bunch of equally great singles showed the band as true contenders for the punk-rock throne. Alas, it was not to be as their mercurial singer Malcolm Owen, succumbed to the pressures of stardom and some of the temptations that come with it. He tragically passed away in 1980.

The last single “West One (Shine on Me) was a great one, a fitting finale for the band. However, the other three original members, with an appropriate name change to Ruts DC, soldiered on with a few more dub-oriented releases over the years, but soon faded away.

When original guitarist Paul Fox was diagnosed with terminal cancer in 2007, the Ruts reformed for a benefit concert for him with long-time fan Henry Rollins filling in as lead vocalist. Fox died later that same year.

Seemingly the end of the Ruts story, but, no, not to be. The two other original members bassist John “Segs” Jennings and drummer Dave Ruffy recruited a new guitarist and recently recorded a new album “Music Must Destroy.” The results are stunning – a rock album much in the tradition and spirit of the original band and a monster of a release.

Lyrically the album tackles some of the social/political issues of today, and musically it is a nice mixture of rock styles. Starting off with the take-no-prisoners rock of “Psychic Attack,” it leads into the modern rock stomp of the title track (featuring Henry Rollins) but then the album really takes hold and gets interesting.

“Surprise” is vintage Ruts and would have fit nicely on The Crack. One great song followed by another. The cool “2nd Hand Child,” the dark-edged power-pop of “Soft City Lights,” the should-be-a-hit hook of “Kill the Pain,” the reggae-inspired vibe of “Peacebomb” and the infectious groove of “Tears on Fire” all excite. The hard rocking, early-Who-like attack of “Vox Teardrop” explodes to a climax, but the the album closes out with a surprising yet wonderful acoustic ballad, “Golden Boy” written about Malcolm Owen and reflects on what might have been if things had worked out differently.

A classic album and a worthy addition to the Ruts lasting legacy.

PROTEX: Tightrope (Bachelor)

Spoiler: Power-Pop album of the year!

Formed in Belfast, Ireland in 1978, the Clash-influenced Protex signed a label deal, released a few singles and toured, but their debut album was shelved and not released until 2010. Having broken up in 1981, the band reunited in support of the release and toured behind a cult following overseas and a few gigs in the U.S. The reformed Protex have just released a new album, and it is a true rock n’ roll classic! Ringing guitars, sweet harmonies, memorable melodies and rocking drums – all powering a set of great songs of pure-rock bliss.

All ten tracks on Tightrope are keepers. From the rocking opener “Waiting on a Sign,” the album is filled with tunes that will stick in your head for days. “On the Wire” is a brisk new-wave/punk number with a tense bopping, guitar riff. “Even If I Wanted To” has a slow, early ’60s rock and roll feel with a killer vocal hook. “Without You” is one of those perfect songs! A true power-pop gem it has it all, a super hook, sweet vocals, great guitars, sing-along chorus and a strong bridge. Ditto “Stay Out of My Dreams.” A should-be standard on anyone’s power-pop playlist. Try getting this chorus out of your head. Pure-pop perfection! The closer “Shining Star” asks the question “ you got us on your radar..” Yes Protex, we do, and we’ll be giving this album many spins for years to come!

CD REVIEWS: Memos from the Underground

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