Album review: The Ruiners

August 12, 2010

Here's another preview of one of my Buried Treasure picks for this week's "Sound Opinions": A deliciously sweet hunk o' bubblegum-pop and glam glitter mixed up in a mess of greasy, oily, garage-rock grunge, and brought to us by one of Chicago's finest independent labels.

The Ruiners, "Happy Birthday Bitch" (Pravda) Rating:3.5/4

The title of this killer 10-track album from one of the nastiest quintets out of Detroit since the Motor City Five may be off-putting for a moment to the feminists among this blog’s readership, but there are two things to take into account before moving on. One, there’s no comma there, so rather than being an exceedingly rude and sexist personal declaration, it could rightly be read as referencing an especially impassioned gripe fest occasioned by the annual celebration of one’s birth. (Never mind that track five makes the message more obvious; I’m riffing here.)

The other thing to consider is, of course, that striking cover image of prolifically inked and ambiguously inviting/threatening vocalist, dancer, and muse Nina Friday brandishing a birthday cake in one hand… and a hatchet in the other. Tell me you wouldn’t think twice about speaking rudely to this lady, no matter what the grievance.

Known for being banned from some rock clubs, setting things on fire, stripping down onstage, and occasionally winding up behind bars over their decade-long exploration of rock ’n’ roll excess, there are no deep messages in the Ruiners’ songs: “Keep that sugar buzz going,” “All this lust is eating me alive,” “You wish you had some duct tape to fix that broken halo,” “Time to get a beer,” and “Screw you!” are typical of their lyrical exclamations. But sometimes you just want to turn your brain off and give yourself over to an overwhelming assault of fuzz guitars and rampaging grooves. And with bandleader Rick Ruiner’s snotty, nasal vocals nicely merging with the Russian-born Friday’s more dulcet tones and Liz Ruiner’s sexy, propulsive bass lines, this is as fine an excuse to do so as I’ve heard in some time.

The group doesn’t have any local gigs on the books at the moment, but here are two tastes of the Ruiners in action, with videos for “Beer Time” and “Sugar Buzz,” both tracks on the new album.