As the title suggests, The Peel Sessions: The Ruts bundles up all the Radio One sessions the band recorded for DJ John Peel. The group performed three times for the show between 1979 and 1980, and, in a way, this album gives a more rounded picture of the Ruts than their studio album does. For their first session, in January 1979, the band focused on a diverse group of songs, three of which would later appear on their debut album. Among these was a steaming version of "Babylon's Burning," the song that slammed them into the U.K. Top Ten later that summer. The Ruts were fast evolving beyond the hard-hitting punk-rockers of just a few months before, and were now introducing roots reggae and dub into their sound. The changeover in styles is evident on "Dope for Drugs," emerging into full-blown reggae purity on "Black Man's Pinch." The group's second session, in May, zigzagged like a Ping-Pong ball. They kicked off with the paranoiac "Sus" (retitled "S.U.S." on The Crack), then launched into a pair of rapid-fire bursts of warp-speed punk, with "Society," in particular, acting as a blueprint for all future melodic hardcore bands, then tumbled into the glacial drifts of "It Was Cold," and finished with a twist of pop-punk. Only "Society" was not included on their debut album, and the versions here are remarkably similar to the finished ones. The Ruts returned for their final session in February 1980, and this time opened with a steaming version of their latest single, "Staring at the Rude Boys." Keeping the pop mood intact, the group then kicked into "Demolition Dancing," the Sweet go punk, then stunned listeners with a seething, totally transformed "In a Rut," before ending with the oppressive "Secret Soldier." Judging by this display, the group seemed set to become one of the most inspired bands of the '80s, with the growing inclusion of poppier elements into their harder-rock stylings opening up vast new musical vistas. But it wasn't to be. Five months after their last session, singer Malcolm Owen was dead, and the Ruts were no more. This album remains a poignant reminder of the band's power and of a great potential cut short.
AllMusic Review by Jo-Ann Greene