The Ruts – Jah War

The Ruts – Jah War // I Ain’t Sophisticated (Virgin Records) 1979. No other single by The Ruts better captures the duality of the band than Jah War. A couple of other Ruts 7inches combine a reggae side and a punk side but these two tracks really exemplify the two sides of the band. Jah War, is possibly my favourite punk reggae crossover song. That’s not saying much really because I always had a bit of an issue with the punk rock/new wave fascination with reggae. I saw punk as a break with rock-n-roll tradition, a form of willed primitivism. Transgressions into traditional musics and cultural plundering seem eerily reminiscent of the boomer, white boy, blooze shuck-n-jive which I utterly and completely despised. Do I hate the blues? No. Do I hate white boys playing the blues in some veiled bid for “authenticity”? Yes. To a lesser degree, I had the same issue with new wavers playing reggae. Except for some reason with The Ruts. I’m not exactly sure why but with The Ruts, it seemed to come so natural and Jah War is the best example of what they could do with a one drop. I Ain’t Sofisticated is a great punk rock song. Plain and simple. How they could pull off something so primitive and visceral on one side and something so nuanced and detailed on the other while being completely authentic playing both is beyond me. That’s really the charm of the band. Why Malcolm Owens would want to risk such a good formula by fucking with heroin is also beyond me. Probably the most tragic drug-related death in rock history.

This entry was posted in Punk Rock, UK. Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to The Ruts – Jah War

  1. Jenny says:

    What about the Clash? They did pretty good job at reggae.

  2. Javi says:

    Love the Ruts. One of my fave Brit 77 Punk bands.
    I agree with them arguably being the best at merging Punk Rock and Reggae. Anyway, since I REALLY dig the Clash- though it isn’t supposed to be cool liking them anymore, ennit?-, songs like “Police and Thieves” or “Armagideon Time” do, for me, get inside that competition.

    Besides, my favorite Ruts track ever would be… well, certainly the thing’d be between “Demolition Dancing”- stunning song- and “Dope for guns”. Fuck, what a huge band should they’ve been.

  3. Joe says:

    Javi and Jenny — I love The Clash and my favorite song by them may be Bankrobber (one of their reggae songs). I also love The Offs. I wasn’t discrediting all the punk bands that did reggae. I do think The Ruts were the very best at this sort of thing tho…

  4. Peter says:

    Thanks for sharing that excellent b-side. I hadn’t heard “I Ain’t Sofisticated” before.

  5. fernando says:

    Damn good musicians, The Ruts! Some time ago I was thinking of this single as a pre-Bad Brains thing, because of the punk/reggae coupling. I read somewhere that the BBs acknowledge the Ruts as an influence, which makes lots of sense… And yes, I totally agree about them being the best punk band at doing reggae songs. “Give youth a chance” is another perfect example…
    Fernando :)

  6. Patrick Sands says:

    Hey….I love this single thanks. The reason that The Ruts pulled this off is the same reason that any “authentic” band does. They were real. You could feel them no matter what they played. They could have played toy pianos and it still would have been great.

Leave a Reply