The packaging is tremendous. A cigarette/cigar/cough drop (Altoids-like) tin opens to reveal a stack of beautiful color coasters with band photos and superb historical liner notes. Unfortunately, the music doesn't quite live up to its presentation, and isn't as important as some of the other Ruts archival releases. It's not a bad thing to open the vaults for a band this phenomenal (and this short-lived), and In a Can's compilation of the "In a Rut" era (late 1978/early 1979 Ruts, just before they were signed), from two Fair Deal studio sessions, one great Underhill session, and one "Mystery" session, is welcome as always. But these demos really add little to the later, far-better Virgin Records' standards, Peel Session versions, outtakes releases, and live albums. It's just the same thing, only before the band matured into a much tighter, more elastic and explosive unit, and on dodgier recording equipment as befits a struggling new band. Besides, there are some much more exciting, unreleased songs of this formative period missing, such as "Beat Your Heart Out," that exist in drummer Dave Ruffy's collection -- but apparently not in that of guitarist Paul Fox, who supplied these 1/4" tapes. A couple of the tracks are interesting, however, for the Ruts scholar. The "Mystery" version of "Savage Circle" is actually radically different from the known arrangement -- a clue as to how they worked up this monster from scratch. But in the end, this release feels like a snapshot of an incredible band on the verge of greatness.
In a Can Review
by Jack Rabid