They started out fast and furious, but the Ruts' first recordings barely hinted at what was to come, so it's a good thing perhaps that the "Stepping Bondage" EP only arrived posthumously. Instead of that record, however, Britain was introduced to the band via their "In a Rut" single in early 1979, an aggressive, ominous 45 that dripped with menace and desolation. Their "Babylon's Burning" single was even more malevolent, and although it was a belligerent battering of hardcore music without a syncopated beat in sight, its Rastafarian-inspired lyrics linked the band with the burgeoning roots scene that was storming Britain's barricades. With "Jah War," itself inspired by recent riots, the Ruts made roots reggae their own, unleashing the most powerful white reggae record, hand's down. But the Ruts were never to be tied to one genre or sound, "War"'s follow-up, "Staring at the Rude Boys," was a tribute to the rise of mods, while "West One" enveloped glam rock, hard rock, and even pop. Yet the band was never attempting to be all things to everyone in hopes of smashing the charts. No, they weren't chameleons, just music lovers trying to bring all the sounds they loved to their own songs. In their all too brief career, the quartet achieved that brilliantly across a mere six singles and one album. But The Punk Singles Collection doesn't end with the 45s recorded during the band's life span, nor even at the posthumous, aforementioned EP, released a year after Malcolm Owen's death and the band's demise. No, instead of going out on a downer, the set looks forward to the future, and closes with the Ruts D.C.'s debut single. With all the band's A- and B-sides present and accounted for, this is the Ruts story, and a glorious tale it was.
AllMusic Review by Jo-Ann Greene