When looking at the career of Lesley Rankine, it’s difficult not to think about Shirley Manson. For one, they both hail from Scotland and have had earlier musical stints in bands with ‘fishy’ names (Lesley in the London punk band, Silverfish and Shirley in the Scottish band, Angelfish). And since then, both have gone on to make engaging electronica/pop music.
But where Shirley found opportunity (and a higher profile) with the highly successful Garbage, Lesley went to the more independent route, teaming up with producer Mark Walk and creating Ruby, a name shared by both of their maternal grandmothers.
Lesley began performing in the 80’s with the Grizzelders, but not long afterward, was asked to join Silverfish where she and the band eventually garnered a reputation on the punk scene for their industrial-laced, feminist musical anthems.
After the release of a few EP’s in the early nineties, Silverfish disbanded and Lesley relocated to Seattle to begin collaborating with Pigface, a large, industrial music project created by producer Martin Atkins. It was with Pigface that Lesley eventually met with another producer named Mark Walk, and the two of them formed Ruby in 1994.
Ruby’s first effort was the 1995 album Salt Peter, where Lesley shifted gears from the aggresive punk/metal she once recorded with Silverfish to a record rich with dark, electronic cuts, providing the perfect showcase for her strong, sinister-sounding vocals. The six-song EP, Stroking The Full Length followed in 1996 with a selection of remixed tracks from Salt Peter.
Interestingly enough, Lesley could be seen later that same year in a Mountain Dew commercial of all things, singing a particularly pleasing version of ‘Thank Heaven For Little Girls’ (which regrettably, I wasn’t able to obtain a sample of) and then later teamed up with Tom Jones (yes, that Tom Jones) for a remake of ‘Kung Fu Fighting,’ from the Jackie Chan film, Supercop.
But it would take nearly six years and Lesley’s return to Scotland before Ruby saw the release of 2001’s Short-Staffed At The Gene Pool, which continued their experimental musical approach with consistent results. Later spawned Altered & Proud, a remixed version of the album’s songs by people from Dot Allison to Kid 606.
From Salt Peter, ‘Heidi’ is one of the slower and spookier of the album’s eleven tracks, oozing with Lesley’s voice, eventually transforming when an electronic harmonica breaks through the dark clouds. It’s ending finds Lesley repeatedly declaring, “I can speak so softly, because I have so much power.”
On ‘Lilypad,’ (from Short-Staffed At The Gene Pool)the listener is taken on a lighter, more jauntier ride and the song easily qualifies as one of Ruby’s most accessible tracks to the virgin listener.
‘Grace,’ which became the first single from the 2001 album with its ‘feels like butter’ chorus, features a groovy, danceable beat and sexual innuendos galore. Who doesn’t love that?
‘This Is,’ is one that was originally featured in the Jim Carrey movie The Cable Guy back in 1996. And while the film is forgettable, this track shouldn’t be. The song’s chorus finds Lesley singing, “This is such an opportunity for me.” And based on the growing commercial success that Shirley Manson was finding with Garbage at the time, it really should have been Lesley’s opportunity.