Release Date: Jun 1, 2010
Record label: Warp
Genre(s): Indie, Rock
There has always been a seasonal quality to music – the way post rock is wrong on a summer's day, or how certain Pavement songs sound wrong trenching round in the snow. And Born Ruffians, both on their new record Say It - and previous Red, Yellow & Blue - suit the summer infinitely more than the months past September. Something indefinable about the guitars, probably.
“Unjustly ignored.” “Overlooked.” “Slept-on.” Those descriptors don’t even come close to describing what happened to Born Ruffians' excellent Warp debut, Red, Yellow and Blue. The album was a triumph in using empty space to as devastating an effect as guitar riffs, and Born Ruffians came off like a group of the twitchiest nerds Canadian public school had to offer. It was a dream concoction of Devo’s paranoia and the Feelies’ outsider musical art, yet it got nary a notice in the mainstream press, and Born Ruffians are arguably less known now, as they release their solid sophomore album, Say It.
It would be easy to say that Born Ruffians' second album shows just how much they’ve grown since Red, Yellow & Blue, but it’s more accurate to say that they’ve shrunk in just the right ways. Recorded in just two weeks, Say It finds the band doing much more with less, allowing the quicksilver shifts of their tight, melodic, and rhythmic interplay to shine through. Nearly every song here reveals how cohesive, energetic, and flexible Born Ruffians have become, but “Oh Man” kicks off Say It with a perfect example: the band moves from lilting, liquid guitars and a rollicking beat to choppy rhythms and back again so easily that it’s almost imperceptible.
Not many indie rock albums sport a song title as ridiculous as “Retard Canard”, and even fewer have a song like “Sole Brother” that rips a guitar melody from Big Band standard “In the Mood”. But these fellas were and are Born Ruffians, and, on their frequently fascinating new album, the sonic mischief runs rampant. The first thing you’ll notice about Say It, the second full-length from these Canadian misfits, is that it’s immediate.
Born Ruffians' sophomore album is a cohesive, occasionally repetitious helping of choppy indie pop, almost brutalist in its minimalist instrumentation and dry-as-a-bone production. Memorable Strokes-informed melodies and chimey guitar hooks make Luke Lalonde's not-always-charming voice go down easier, while boppy drums and bass lines repeatedly stop and start. [rssbreak] Like all effective trios, the young Toronto band, originally from Midland, understands the importance of making every part count.
Luke Lalonde is a pretty good singer. On Born Ruffians' full-length debut, 2008's Red Yellow & Blue, his voice was a tightly coiled spring that popped off in all the right places, hugging the record's herky-jerky rhythms close and often acting as a primer for the splashes of colorful guitar riffs that ran throughout the record. Even more impressive was his memorable turn on "Jamelia", from Caribou's latest, Swim.