hit me with a flower
March 9, 2007 9:11 PM   Subscribe

Three chords and four noble truths: on Philadelphia's legendary Buddhist hardcore band of the 1980s, Ruin.
posted by adamgreenfield (16 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
Interesting. I'd heard of these guys, but I'm more familiar with Shelter, who came much later.
posted by bardic at 9:43 PM on March 9, 2007

Cool post, I had never heard of these guys before.

Was that just a random dhammapada link or is it a translation you are fond of?
posted by vronsky at 10:13 PM on March 9, 2007

See also.
posted by homunculus at 10:27 PM on March 9, 2007

Never heard of them either; you might be interested in a bit of Tibetan rockers Vajara dodgy Chinglish article.
I used to have a fair few cassettes of Tibetan heavy metal, some of which was quite devotional. There's quite a scene it seems, which I'm mostly ignorant of, and I bought stuff largely at random. Tibetan lads do often seem to have the rocker advantage of looking like Lemmy anyway.
posted by Abiezer at 10:28 PM on March 9, 2007

vronsky: That translation appears to have been written by one of the band members.
posted by Coventry at 2:26 AM on March 10, 2007

vronsky, it's Glenn Wallis's translation, and it's a beaut.

Well, Shelter. I mean, that's a different tradition entirely, about as apples and oranges as you can be. They took the very worst things about straight edge - the arrogance, the self-righteousness, the judgment and drawing of lines - and found "scriptural" justification for them.

Here's the thing about Ruin: I wish I had listened more carefully. I loved them at the time for their intensity, and it's true that they underwrote my first explorations into Buddhist thought, but I'd be a better person today if I had embraced their brand of non-judgment over the straight-line certainties of Ian MacKaye and Henry Rollins.

This is pretty hard for me to admit.

Anyway, that's kinda beside the point. As a band, they have to stand or fall on their music, and I think that speaks for itself.
posted by adamgreenfield at 6:35 AM on March 10, 2007 [1 favorite]

Hmp. Never knew they were Buddhists, but Fiat Lux is a great album. I still have it.
posted by scratch at 8:14 AM on March 10, 2007

Help a duffer out... the cnx to Lou is ... ?
posted by mwhybark at 6:31 PM on March 10, 2007

" it's Glenn Wallis's translation, and it's a beaut."

Cool - I think I am going to order it. I'm no expert, but the variations I have seen in the different translations are huge. Much more so than with the Bible.
posted by vronsky at 7:00 PM on March 10, 2007

Point taken, but Mackaye has distanced himself from the straight edge movement. (I know, I know -- he wrote "Straight Edge," but he never meant for it to become a lifestyle/brand.)
posted by bardic at 7:01 PM on March 10, 2007

mwhybark: The Lou Reed lyric was reprinted on a Ruin flyer I picked up on South Street in, I'm guessing, 1983. Said flyer thus both introduced me to a very cool song and to Buddhism.

Lou, of course, meant nothing of the sort, but in context the reference is to the Buddha's final appearance before an audience, on which occasion he merely held up a single lotus flower; the "sudden enlightenment" that resulted in one member of his audience ultimately gives rise to the tradition we now know as Zen. I had to make the connection my ownself, and it took me awhile, but I've always thought this was a beautiful reading of the lyric.

bardic, it's a little off-topic, but I would never blame Ian for what anyone else made of straight edge. How could I? Getting to know Ian and Jeff Nelson as a junior-woodchuck rock journalist in the mid-80s disabused me of any notion that they were speaking ex cathedra, or had any desire to do so. And anyway, the Dischord bands were always richer and more nuanced than their imitators (and sadly, many of their fans) would have had you believe.

No, I blame my own self-righteousness of the time on nobody but myself. But there's no question that it would have been a harder stance for me to maintain had I been capable of understanding what Ruin was trying to tell me.
posted by adamgreenfield at 8:42 PM on March 10, 2007 [1 favorite]


that may be the mostest awesome thing I've read on MeFi. You reconstructed the hidden buddhist subtext, unkown to the author, of that song just as another did before you, each presumably on their own, and now you've shared it with me and i do indeed get it. That is just wonderful. You, sir, have hit me with a flower.
posted by mwhybark at 11:29 PM on March 10, 2007

Well, heck, thank you. I couldn't be happier. (Seriously. You should see the smile I'm rocking at the moment.)
posted by adamgreenfield at 8:50 AM on March 11, 2007

adamgreenfield, wasn't trying to score points. Just sayin'. I'm sure Ian is as bemused by his own legacy as anyone else.

(Awesome that you got to meet him btw. Looking forward to that some day.)

(Still not sure if I want Fugazi to make another album though. I really dig The Evens. Thinking out loud, etc.)
posted by bardic at 8:57 AM on March 11, 2007

Awesome post - Ruin broke up right as I came in to the Philly scene as a kid -- they seemed to lurk in the background of most of my favorite bands at the time (some shout outs: Orifice, Sink Manhattan, King Carcass, More Fiends), almost like mythology to a 16 year-old kid; it probably was helped that their songs had a timeless resonance to them, almost like punk covers of medieval and classical chants and dirges
He Ho the world's on fire!
He Ho the world's on fire!
Don't you know the world's aflame?!?
I wish I would say I saw them live, but they were just a legend to me. I remember older people (who I've recently realized were sometimes as ancient as 20--or even 25! HAH!) talking about them like they were the greatest thing ever - and I had the recordings, so I kinda believed it.

Coincidentally, I was just listening to Ruin and I think I can say that they stand up to the test of time - if you're interested in them, some stuff is available:

A couple MP3s on (also has some LIVE SKULL and OF CABBAGES AND KINGS stuff)

Sounds and videos at soundlift

Of course--and yet surprisingly-- there is a Myspace page

Unfortunately, their stuff isn't on emusic. Maybe I'll send them a note and suggest it - it doesn't cost much to put it up, and then they might even make some money off it.
posted by illovich at 11:25 AM on March 11, 2007

« Older The future is looking brighter   |   Raymond Scott dot com Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments