Following the death of vocalist Malcolm Owen in 1980, The Ruts managed to recast themselves in a dub crossover vein with Rhythm Collision Vol. 1, before disbanding in 1982. Years later, having regrouped, they suffered a further bereavement with the loss of original guitarist Paul Fox.
With the help of lifelong fan Henry Rollins, however, who guests on the title track, and luminaries such as Kirk Brandon and Captain Sensible, they’ve re-emerged again with Music Must Destroy as a rockier proposition, re-channelling the militant, straight-ahead postpunk spirit of 1980, especially on Psychic Attack.
Lyrically, Surprise shows a touch of impatience with the lack of insurrectionary spirit in 21st-century youth. There’s no dub component on the record, which is a shame, but styles range from Kill The Pain which is reminiscent of Something That I Said, Peace Bomb, whose slow arcs are almost shoegazey, and the cracked, balladic Golden Boy, a tribute to Owen, for whom ‘tomorrow came too late’.