Born Ruffians have a small, economical sound which does them a favor in two ways: it makes their strong moments easily digestible and their missteps easily forgettable. For every meh lyrical moment and trust me, Say It
is full of them, there is another straightforward song or expertly executed melody to save the album from idling in youthful mediocrity.
Of course, Born Ruffians seem like the kind of band that would feature on an OC
soundtrack back in the mid-aughts (unsurprisingly, they played on English teen drama Skins
) with their bouncy, essentially pop-oriented music, idiosyncratic (but not too much so) vocals, lyrics about young adult problems (e.g. being drunk and awkward at parties, freezing up in front of the opposite sex) and so on. And there are the obvious contemporary touchstones that bear mentioning: shades of Vampire Weekend, Cold War Kids, and The Strokes in particular color most of the songs on Say It
. So it would be hard to say Born Ruffians sound especially unique in 2010, but their energy and musical dexterity easily make up for their lack of fresh ideas and the album is consistently fun to listen to.
This energy in particular makes the band sound somewhat spastic at times and they're best when they settle into grooves like on "Nova Leigh" or the finger-picked riffs of opener "Oh Man". Singer Luke LaLonde's acrobatic voice works well when the music is relatively stable; songs like "Blood, The Sun & Water" move around too much to be particularly memorable and LaLonde's tendency to wail makes such tracks even more tedious to sit through. Luckily, these moments are few and far between and the energy level stays pretty consistent for the duration of the album.
Everything aside, Born Ruffians sound tight. Every bass, guitar, and drum part interlocks like clockwork and they're thoroughly in control of the sound they've been developing since 2006's self-titled EP. That sound, however, too often meanders into a stylistic gray area; the poppiest songs aren't quite catchy enough, the rock parts never quite rock, the unhinged vocals never quite take off. They're a good band with a lot of potential, but instead of taking the next leap forward on this new LP, they've only gone a few baby steps. --ben krusling
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MP3: "Oh Man" (Say It)
Born Ruffians on Myspace