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Since when did Born Ruffians sound so ordinary?

"RUFF"

Release date: 02 October 2015
6/10
Born Ruffians RUFF
27 September 2015, 11:51 Written by Adam Burbidge
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If you loved (the music on) Channel 4’s hit Teen Drama Skins and were sitting greasily in front of the television in April 2008, your aural interest will have piqued when one of the ‘skins’ did something to another of the ‘skins’ when they were in a club, and… more things probably happened and then bam! Born Ruffians are on stage and they’re belting out “Hummingbird”!

The Ontario-based foursome continued to pull from this rich vein of original sound through the rest of Red Yellow and Blue (2008), onto Say it (2010) and Birthmarks (2013); three excellent records – and favourites of mine - that can simultaneously be vibrating and jerking with riotously good indie rock songs, and swaying dreamily with their beautiful brand of the slow stuff. The lively arrangements on several tracks betray charmingly forlorn lyrics (see “Permanent Hesitation” on Birthmarks). Indeed, the lyrics have played such a huge part in these albums - they do ‘matter-of-fact’ so well, and it always works.

Until now.

RUFF has been firmly placed in the context of their catalogue so far, described as the ugly innards of Birthmarks and frayed and jagged-edged as Red, Yellow and Blue. It has been billed as a ‘return to form and departure from convention’. It may be a departure from convention, but it is also a departure from their magnificent form. ‘Their most mature work’ it may be, but listening to a shuffle of all their output to date outlines a noticeably poorer quarter.

Despite this, there is quality on RUFF. “Stupid Dream” has the rumbling exciting funk that aligns so well with Luke Lalonde’s fidgety vocals and “Fuck Feelings” and “Shade to Shade” ring so heartfelt that they really have the power to move. Yet on the whole there is much less to pull listeners in and keep them in the room - the scant hooks, ordinary composition and throw-away expressions leave the record, for the most part, deflated.

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