It doesn’t usually crop up on “best albums of the 1990s” critical lists – but most of the albums that do, are, as we all know, dead boring. Disappearing with the Creation label, unsold stock copies of this album have recently begun turning up in branches of Poundland. I would recommend anyone with £1 to spare to grab a copy if they see one.
What is this album? “Salt Peter” by Ruby.
Ruby was a short-lived studio project of Lesley Rankine (ex-Silverfish). To say that this was her “trip hop” project may induce nausea in some readers, but rest assured these two albums are no Portishead-lite, Sneaker Pimps type throwaway. (The other, the more electronic, dance-orientated “Short Staffed At The Gene Pool” is less immediate in its appeal but just as worth finding – it just hasn’t found its way to the poundshops yet).
The electronics – on Salt Peter – are mean, distorted, dirty-sounding. (The second album took a fractionally more “spacey” turn with lots of gated-reverb type effects on the vocals and beats alike). Guitars are central to the sound, not just an occasional decoration – and, though not used in an old-school rock way, they add another layer of grunginess (except for a bit of delicate acoustic work on one song). Yes, in the second half of the album, there’s upright bass here, saxophone or trumpet there…but they never threaten for a moment to take this into yuppie muzak territory.
And – having given up being a rock screamer, how did Lesley fare as a “straight” singer? In a word, wonderfully. The album wouldn’t be half as effective as it is if she didn’t have a great, cool-but-menacing blues diva voice (which I should point out, sounds not a bit like Anal Wineglass and her legion of even-more-hopeless disciples!) – ensuring that she not only can write and sing seriously addictive tunes, but they rock. Sort of.
The lyrics aren’t exactly poetry but they have a lot of “I’ve suffered, now it’s your turn” attitude – and yes, there’s sex in there too, she has a way with a double-entendre (which continues on the second album).
If you need any more persuading, listen first to this
and then this