The punk and new wave phenomenon of pressing cover art into vinyl always served marketing departments better than fans. For some bizarre counter-intuitive reason, punk made slavishly incautious consumers of us all. One gets the impression of major-label bean counters gleefully rubbing their hands, cynically calculating, “If they’ll buy this punk shit, they’ll buy anything.” And we did.
Well, vinyl’s back and so’s the picture disc. And along with all of our midlife crises, our wide-eyed gullibility. But still, they look great. The die-cut circular-hole front covers tend to tear and you can’t roll a serviceable bifter on one, but you can make a clock out of them. And who doesn’t crave the 80s equivalent of a Mateus Rosé table lamp ticking itself unplayable on their wall? Exactly.
The Crack, The Ruts’ debut album, is an essential component of any self-respecting punk collection. Featuring the singles Babylon’s Burning, Something That I Said and Jah War, it was the only album completed by vocalist Malcolm Owen before his tragic, heroin-related death in July 1980. Though overshadowed by Ian Curtis’s suicide earlier in the summer, Owen’s loss was as devastating a blow to a floundering, Oi!-enamoured punk scene as Curtis’s was to the nascent post-punk milieu.
While The Crack is the pick of a UMC pic-disc bunch, including releases from The Skids, Blondie and The Members, there remain significantly more practical ways of telling the time.