Ruthless Ones: Ruthless Ones

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Powerful stuff from this young ska/punk outfit with loads of energy and promise. Ruthless Ones are Ian Robertson (gtr, vcls), Evgeni Varakin (gtr, vcls), Elliot Siebert (bass, vcls) and Nik Robe (drms), and all those voices are very necessary for the group’s shout along choruses.

Stylistically, they draw from ‘White Riot’ era Clash for the socio-political stance and West Indian rhythms and from Stiff Little Fingers for the teen energy and the scalding guitar breaks. Within those parameters, Ruthless Ones manage to find space to experiment with nuance and texture.

While “Natty Treble” is a classic slice of old school Oi punk, “Walls” is completely in the punk now, with its nods to metal and garage influences. Given that this isn’t a genre known for intricate arrangements, the band’s ability to flip the script saves the album from sounding too much all the same.

While the musicianship is just fine, Robertson’s up from the guts lyrics sets Ruthless Ones apart. Loosely themed around a young man’s coming of age struggles in the urban world; “Long Run” goes down the bleak road of teen angst, “Nobody Knows” checks on communities within the communities we think we all know and “Big Eye” is a clever breakdown on how Big Brother has become just another commodity on the greed market, which Robertson implies, is a much scarier prospect than ol’ Big Brother hisself.

From the jamalicious opening riff to album leadoff  "Danger City” you know their hearts are in the right place. How much so isn’t revealed until a close listen to “New Life Perception”, the album’s centrepiece. It’s dedicated to Alex Gillespie, Robertson‘s lifelong buddy who died last August when mounted police herded kids at a beach party onto busy Lakeshore Boulevard in Toronto.

It’s a moving look at a young man experiencing the first brush with his own mortality and a moving tribute to the deep bonds of young friendship. With the talent, energy and songwriting chops displayed here, this crew can only get better.

Ruthless Ones play Hard Luck Cafe in Toronto Aug.21.

Lenny Stoute