Tuesday, April 09, 2013

Born Ruffians: "Birthmarks" (album review)

Since 2004 Toronto's Born Ruffians have been churning out some pretty enjoyable indie rock.

The band's problem, however, has been consistency.  Each album has contained almost as much filler as it has brilliant moments.  That's not a trend that changes with their latest effort, Birthmarks, which comes out on April 16th.

The band's trademark hurky-jerky style is on full display as the album kicks off with "Needles", a cut on which they out-Vampire Weekend Vampire Weekend.  "Ocean's Deep" boasts a delightful, choppy side-to-side bounce.

Uncharacteristically, it's the bassline that is the star on "Rage Flows".  It sets a deep groove that's punctuated by handclaps, making it awfully difficult to resist tapping your toes.  On "So Slow" it's a hollow, reverberating drum beat that makes the most impact.

The sunny, laid back "With Her Shadow" sounds as though it draws influence from, believe it or not, Graceland-era Paul Simon.

The filler tracks aren't offensive to the ears, nor even necessarily bad.  They just aren't up to snuff when compared to the balance of the material.  On this record, tracks like "6-5000" and "Cold Pop" are generic indie rock numbers that sound fine playing in the background, but can't hold your interest when you focus your attention on them.

One of the few truly bad tracks is "Golden Promises".  A synth, which sounds vaguely off-key, whines its way through a plodding, overly-earnest number.

While Birthmarks suffers from similar ailments as its predecessors, it does so to a lesser degree.  It shows that Born Ruffians are on the right track, but there is still more work that needs to be done before they can create a true masterpiece.

Best tracks: "Ocean's Deep", "Rage Flows"

Track listing for Birthmarks:
  • Needle
  • 6-5000
  • Ocean's Deep
  • Permanent Hesitation
  • Cold Pop
  • Golden Promises
  • Rage Flows
  • So Slow
  • With Her Shadow
  • Too Soaked To Break
  • Dancing On the Edge of Our Graves
  • Never Age

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