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Top 25 Art Blog - Creative Tourist

Album Review: Born Ruffians – Say It

Toronto's Young Bucks dazzle us with the follow up to their 2008 album, Red, Yellow & Blue.

Written by Rachel Clare

God Bless Canada. Quietly producing some of the most influential and downright awesome musicians known to all mankind (I’m talking Neil Young, viagra Joni Mitchell, treat Leonard Cohen & Arcade Fire here rather than Celine Dion, Avril Lavigne and Bryan Adams, by the way. Although, lets face it, after a few Camparis ‘Summer of 69’ is a chooon…) the Canucks are still chucking out quality music at an alarming rate these days.

Having cemented themselves firmly into the collective consciousness of the indie scenesters in 2008 with their successful debut album ‘Red, Yellow & Blue’, Toronto’s jangly pop darlings Born Ruffians are back with ‘Say It’, the notoriously tricky second album. And tricky it certainly is.
The first thing to clear up is that there is nothing as instantly toe-tappingly poptastic as ‘Hummingbird’ on this record. What we get instead is a sense of impending maturity and a feeling that our kids are all grown up.

Having happily settled into their own skins on this album, they seem less frantic and desperate to impress. This newfound maturity may mean a less instant record musically, but what we do get is a more laid back affair and what I believe will eventually been seen as more impressive an album than their debut. Still replete with the familiar jerky vocal twitchings of lead singer and guitarist Luke LaLonde, whose voice on this record goes from Alex Turner to David Byrne to Ben ‘Band of Horses’ Bridwell from one track to the next, ‘Say It’ displays a wider variety of influence and style which subsequently paints a much broader musical picture than it’s slightly one dimensional predecessor. This ability to develop and grow musically pulls them gently out of the indie schmindie pop kids category, placing them on the periphery of ‘respectable musical outfit’. Luckily they manage this shift in style without entirely losing the cheeky twinkle in the eye that saturated ‘Red, Yellow & Blue’ so appealingly.
Lead single ‘Sole Brother’ is the most radio friendly track on offer here, with a lazy slacker melody line and charmingly mellow weaving guitars. This is the one that inadvertently burrows into your ear and pops up on your internal jukebox a week later when you’re in the queue at Sainsburys. And then stays there for the next two weeks.

Best named track of the year, ‘Retard Canard’, is clearly indebted to Talking Heads early output, with mildly threatening heartbeat pounding exercise in eccentricity ‘The Ballad Of Moose Bruce’ seeing the band forget the commercial future of their music for a second and genuinely get stuck into some cheeky geeky indie eccentricity. And it works. For the most part. What is frustrating about this record is that every song throws up so many overt musical references that it becomes more an exercise in ‘what track/band does this remind you of?’ than in appreciating Born Ruffians on their own merit. Yet this album certainly gets under your skin.
In ‘Retard Canard’ we hear LaLonde yelp about wanting to set the world on fire. Sadly it is unlikely that this record is going to get even close to doing that, but it is still a fine example of a band developing their sound and style, yet not losing their ‘wink at the camera’ playfulness. They still have some way to go before they are up there with the likes of fellow Toronto exports Broken Social Scene in experimental musical terms, but they are getting there. Perhaps if they stopped wrapping up their dark and pain-laden lyrics in such a shiny pop sheen, we might start to see the real band and hear what they are truly capable of. ‘Say It’ makes me hungry to hear what they are going to deliver to us next, which can only be a good thing. This record is, for want of a better term, a ‘grower’ that, if you can be bothered to put the work in, pays dividends in the end. Give it a listen. Or five. It’s well worth it.

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