Capital Letters: The Best of Ruefrex

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For a couple minutes in the '80s, Northern Ireland's Ruefrex seemed like they would be the next big thing. Combining Wire's tense and abstract punk with the fist-in-the-air earnestness of U2 and their followers, Ruefrex came on strong but faded into obscurity when their enthusiasm began outweighing their creativity. Cherry Red's Capital Letters collects the best of the group's output along with some unreleased tracks and tops it off with a booklet filled with lyrics, archival photos, and liner notes written with the band's input. It's a fan's dream seeing how these former Melody Maker cover boys have been nearly forgotten in the CD age, but this is dated stuff and hard to recommend to anyone who doesn't like their angst sonically compressed and then turned up really high. The title track is the best Wire meets political youth mob moment here, but only "Wild Colonial Boy" and "Paid in Kind" share its inspired, lean writing. Everything else is delivered with heart, as every avenue of angst and anger is explored, but the merely curious need not worry since Ruefrex seemed to have earned their "uncompromising" reputation from their stance rather than their music. They made news by never choosing between the Protestant and Catholic communities and condemning the division in their homeland between the two, but little of that bravery comes through in the music. For historians and those who remember and miss Ruefrex, Capital Letters is a wonderful archival gift, but everyone else can ignore this footnote of a band.

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