Ruiners. Photo: Keith Hatch
In punk rock, I’ve seen so many things come and go. Bands that were more pop than punk, bands imposing their lifestyles or ideology through their way of dress or lyrics, or just bands that made me want to tour the country in an old Econoline van. In the past twenty years, there has never been a time that I saw a new band that reminded me of so many others I admired, attempted to emulate, or found inspiration in as when I first saw Houston’s Ruiners. Their first show was mind blowing if not for any other reason than for their sheer force and energy. There’s the time I saw them play in the dark at a house party and their bassist almost knocked out a passerby on accident with his fevered performance. Or even the last time, when I saw them open for B L A C K I E when they reminded me of the intensity that only bands like Drive Like Jehu and Fugazi embodied. On their new album, Plebeian, out June 10 on cassette on Miss Champagne Records, they up the ante even further. While their last release had reminded me of Wipers meets Television, this album echoes the likes of Mission of Burma if it were played by the members of The Nation of Ulysses. Quite possibly one of the most intense new bands to come out of Houston, this album proves that the band has plenty of longevity.
The opening track, “Anxiety,” is a quick, feverish and gets going quick and ends just as fast. The snappy drums and the intense guitars make for a world where the lyrics hit just as they’re intended. The stark nature of the lyrics hit hard and there’s something in the mix that’s as crazed as you’d hope for. There’s a darkness to the lyrics you can’t shake, and while the band keeps things fiery, they close things off as quick as they began with drums and bass creating a sound that’s hard to forget while guitar compliments it all as masterfully as you’d expect from these guys. However, while the opening track feels like the perfect way to begin this release, the second track, “Nothing,” feels like one of the many stand outs here. The dual vocals and hook filled structure give it a deeper intensity while the lyrics feel as message-driven as you’d want from a punk band. Utilizing vocals from lead singer Shan Pasha and bassist Hayden Wander, there’s so much happening here that it’s hard not to just give in and fall for it. There’s no reason to overanalyze; this is just straight forward punk that you can’t deny, though the lyrics — “ego death, we are nothing” — will definitely stay with you after one listen. The band proves how strong four people can sound when they’re playing as a cohesive unit, offering up something that isn’t lengthy, but it’s definitely memorable.
That intensity follows into the next song, “Iman,” where the fast pace doesn’t stop from start to finish. There’s the feeling that the band is recording live with little overdubs that really keeps things fiery and at the forefront of their energetic tempo. The song gets going, gets its point across, and then finishes with surgical precision. There are moments in the songs where the bass lines alone are noteworthy and the production of the album proves that punk can have sonic qualities. When the track “Interlude” comes on, a subtle soundtrack plays underneath singer Shan Pasha reading what sounds like a monologue, or perhaps a poem. The soft tones and prose showcase that Ruiners are deeper than a lot of bands in the genre, while giving the listener something so different from the usual punk fare at the same time. With “Pointless,” the intensity of the previous songs returns with a vengeance. The band’s structure of bass and guitar in the front of the mix in the opening is only blasted to a new level with the vocals getting thrown in at a higher level, creating a driving sound that reminds you of the intensity that powered bands like Mission of Burma, early Wire, and Fugazi. While the song has emocore underpinnings, it’s still a melodic punk song that’s another stand out of the album.
Although offering up a lighter side on “Right/Wrong,” they’re still not going too far from their initial path. The track is vastly different with more of a slower pace and reverse guitar tracks that play while the drums and bass play in real time. The vocals and lyrics aren’t as dark as those on the rest of the album, but the track definitely proves that Ruiners can mix things up while smacking you in the face at the same time. The first side of the cassette is closed off with another stand out song, “Trippin’,” where the band embodies hints of Killing Joke and clips from Christopher Walken. The melodic nature of the song itself is truly mesmerizing while there’s a sonic assault during the driving parts of the track. Multiple guitars bleed through amplifiers in a state of feedback, before the song ends as quickly as it began.
The last three songs of the album, or side two of the cassette, are three live versions from the band recorded live at Steamboat Amplifiers, which Free Press Houston debuted in a video originally. The tightness and vigor behind the session is unmatched, kicking off with “One,” and showing off the magic that these four bring to their live sets. They follow this with the passionate and quickness of “Dhost.” The song has always been a favorite at their shows and comes off just as energetic in this recording. The use of new drummer Joey Mains on these three songs pays off and gives anyone who hears them an idea of why the band has become so loved by those who have seen their performances. They close things off with the dulcet tones of “Liquid,” complete with stark lyrics and endearing backing vocals, as the song stands out and demonstrates the band’s diversity.
I think it’s fair to say that most people who hear this record will more than likely find themselves listening to it again and again. There’s so much happening in these songs with the way in which the band approaches songwriting and the hook-filled melodies within that it’s hard to remember that Ruiners is still a punk band. However, when you make records as strong as this one, you’re allowed to write your own rules as to what you do within your genre, and Ruiners proves that they’re on a whole other plane as far as punk bands go.
You can pre-order a copy of “Plebeian” from Miss Champagne Records here. You can also grab your own copy from the band on Saturday, June 10 at Rudyard’s. The show, serving as the release party for the album as well as the release party for Football, etc, will feature sets from both bands as well as performances from Austin’s Yorick and an opening set from Houston’s Greg Cote & the Real Life Friends. The 21 & up show has doors at 8 pm and an $8 cover.
Ruiners Break The Mold With New Album syndicated post