While a lot of the second wave punks were essentially just recycling the ideas from the first wave but with less memorable tunes, these South Londoners stuck out like a sore thumb. Firstly, they showed a willingness to experiment and take things forward, realising that the movement needed to evolve or die. And it didn’t hurt that secondly, they were actually pretty damn good musicians blessed with a fiercely charismatic singer (the late great Malcolm Owen), an incredibly tight rhythm section (Segs Jennings and Dave Ruffy) and the incendiary guitar talent of Paul Fox providing the engine to fire the songs along. Their debut album “The Crack” was an explosive collision of punk attitude, reggae rhythms and dub sensibilities and is one you really should own. Unfortunately, Owen’s death from a heroin overdose in 1980 well and truly derailed the band just as they were starting to establish themselves as chart regulars. Although they carried on for a couple of years as the Ruts DC and put out a decent sophomore effort (1983′s “Animal Now”, given a long overdue release on CD last year), they never really recovered and split in the mid-’80s.
Paul Fox would sadly pass on in 2007 from cancer and this tribute album has been set up by the guitarist’s friends and family to raise money for the Michael Sobell Hospice that treated him in his final days. And they’ve got a pretty damn good cast in to do it justice as well. The Ruts DC are present and correct with the haunting “One Step” as are the excellent Dirty Strangers who Fox joined upon his former group’s demise for two very under-rated “Sham 69 meets the Stones” albums in the late ’80s and they chip in with the rollicking “Biggest Mouth” from their long-since-deleted second album “Burn The Bubble”.
Elsewhere the cast ranges from ’77 veterans like Splodgenessabounds, Menace and Chelsea to the more recently established likes of Texas Terri, the Priscillas and the Phobics. Highlights include the ever-dependable UK Subs blasting through “Robot Age” from last year’s “Work In Progress” album, ex-Adverts frontman TV Smith chipping in with a roaring live version of “Television’s Over” (originally from the second Adverts album) and Duncan Reid from the Boys weighing in with “They’ve Got It All” from his new album “Little Big Head”. We also get Gary Lammin from the Bermondsey Joyriders and Guy Bailey, latterly of the Quireboys and the Peckham Cowboys, chipping in with the solid bar-room stomp of “I’m Never Gonna Love Ya Like I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll”. The newer bands give a good account of themselves as well – the Urban Voodoo Machine are on here with “The Real Criminals”, one of the highlights from their debut album while Kiria’s “Johnny Kissed Madison” is a strong cut which was actually an out-take from her debut album. It’s good to hear the Gasoline Queens’ “Tip Of My Tongue” making it on to CD at last while the Duel’s “When The Fire Goes Out” from their recent “Soundtrack To The End Of The World” album is an impressive leap forward from their traditional three chord punk sound (actually sounding more like a female-fronted PIL) and has actually made me interested in checking said album out.
All in all though, this is 24 quality tracks for just 12 quid and all for a very worthy cause. It’s a fitting tribute for one of punk’s most under-rated guitarists and comes heartily recommended from me. You can order your copy from www.foxyswebsite.com/shop.html