I've been sticking mostly to new music when I contribute a 12 O'Clock Track, but between the death of Adam Yauch of the Beastie Boys on Friday and my post yesterday about Spot's old photos from his hardcore days, I've been sucked into a nostalgia vortex. Probably my favorite Philadelphia hardcore band from the 80s was a peculiar outfit known as Ruin, most of whose members were practicing Buddhists who usually dressed in all-white clothing onstage. The band only made two albums, and their second, Fiat Lux, betrayed the classic-rock foundation that could be heard in their earliest stuff. I don't know of another hardcore band back then who were covering Leonard Cohen songs—they did "Master's Song" on their killer debut, He-Ho, and "Famous Blue Raincoat" on the follow-up. Early on they were fond of crazy tempo shifts, usually zigzagging between thrash and slower metallic vamps. Live they were amazing, with an intensity that was almost hypnotizing.
Their front man, Vosco (born Tom Adams), was both a powerful presence and a strong singer, a guy who could scream along to warp-speed riffs without losing the thread as well as bring melodic grace and gravity to Ruin's flirtations with ballads. In addition to Cohen, Ruin also covered the Rolling Stones' "Play With Fire," and today's 12 O'Clock Track seems to nick a bit of "Paint It Black"—but once the song gets going, it's all Ruin, from the chugging verses to the frenzied chorus. None of the band's recordings are in print, which is pretty sad, but you can find bits and pieces on the Internet. Rich Hutchins, Ruin's original drummer—who plays here—is the only member who moved on to other groups of note. He later joined the New York band Live Skull (with Thalia Zedek), who were once considered peers of Sonic Youth and Swans. And one of Ruin's guitarists went by Cordy Swope, which is one of the coolest names of all time.