Ruth Ruth – Laughing Gallery

5 out of 5

Label: American Recordings

Produced by: Chris Kennedy, Ted Niceley

Yessir, this is a big, honkin’ ratings dosing of “timing is everything.”  I heard Ruth Ruth right when I was starting to explore the elsewheres of music (you know, beyond what most of MTV and the radio were offering me at the time), and fell head-over for the crunchy guitar, flippant lyrics, and punk-tinged style; it was a perfect crossover with the other kind of stuff I was listening to while offering its own unique vibe.

Many attempts to get friends on board with the album failed.  I do wonder: had I heard the album fresh, now, would I care?  I doubt it would get five stars, but, y’know, it is an insanely catchy aggressive pop album, given a properly gutsy sound by producer Ted Niceley.  Chris Kennedy’s warble singing style gets a little forced at points, but as this was one of the original “listen to it a billion times” albums for me, I’m inured to it, and I love it.  More importantly, his half-confessional, half-fuck off tales like I Killed Meg The Prom Queen and I Grew Up are an enviable blend of those qualities, not afraid to paint the singer as a target while also allowing him to flip the tables and occasionally take charge…  It’s a balance many an artist has failed to achieve, and Kennedy does it while chronicling various embarrassing neuroses and obsessions.  Dave Snyder’s hefty drums and Mike Lustig’s instantly-catchy riffs complete the sound, again, all excellently fluffed to stadium size (or rather a bar masquerading as a stadium) by Niceley.

Most bands I’ve stuck with from my youth have a throughline to elsewhere – some kind of style or a particular person that syncs the act with my current tastes.  Yes, I’ve dug Niceley thanks to all of his work with GVSB, so Laughing Gallery has that, but I’m not sure if that’s enough to sell it.  Meanwhile, I’ve continued to follow RR and their off-shoots (like Ultra V), but every slightly cheesy rhyme or generic riff makes me smile the guilty-pleasure smile.  I don’t have a lot of those.  I am so, so happy that Ruth Ruth made its mark upon me at the right time, though, as it allows me to appreciate the brilliantly poppy chops on display, and shake my head in disappointment at all those earholes whose owners’ interests weren’t incited by my forced playthroughs.