"It's weird," says Robin Hall, erstwhile vocalist of formative NY punks/no-wavers Jack Ruby. "But I actually thought we should have hit records."
They didn't, of course. How could they? As early as '74, the toothsome quartet was making quite a racket in Lower Manhattan -- too much racket, really, and the Bowery bohemes flocking to see Television and the New York Dolls were unsure of a band that seemed to thrive on sheets of schizophrenic noise. Robin and his bandmates considered groups like Television and the Dolls distant peers, and they hoped for some sort of recognition in the Lower East Side, but it was clear that Jack Ruby didn't fit. They couldn't, and didn't want to.
"Bands like Television had their thing, which wasn't what we were doing," says Hall today. "We had our own way of doing things. It was more like, 'If everybody's doing that, let's do this.'"
Contrarian and abrasive as they were, Jack Ruby had something. Some of their songs sounded familiar -- at least for the first 30 seconds or so -- borrowing riffs and rhythms from the Stooges, the Velvets, the MC5, various hard rock and garage bands. But there lurked an unhinged, paranoiac collage of amphetemine noise in each of their tunes, due in no small part to drummer Randy Cohen's cracked synth and manipulated sound loops, not to mention Boris Policeband's equally squalid electric viola. While Hall would sneer through his lines and sniff at imaginary jailbait, guitarist Chris Gray wiggled out strangulated leads, and Cohen and Policeband attacked their respective instruments, building a mountainous scraping cacophony atop what began as a fairly planar rock/roll number. In some cases, the sonic bedlam would prove too heavy and unwieldy for the song itself to support, and it would disintegrate abruptly.