[Yep Roc, 2013]
first became familiar with the Born Ruffians in 2010 when they released Say It. Hailing from “The Great White North,” their sound initially gripped me through their herky-jerky rhythms and catchy hooks. Say it was a solid effort by a very young band just beginning to craft their own musical style and sound. Their youthfulness showed through in that release in lyrical content and technical know-how. I enjoyed the album despite it being panned by a good majority of critics upon its release. It was easy to see the talent there and forgive some of the execution. It can only get better from here.
Birthmarks is a 12 song continuation of the youthful themes present in their earlier efforts, but with a much superior execution. The band has left their teens behind and moved into their 20’s. There are similar lyrical themes dealing with relationships and growing up but with newfound maturity. Instead of just wanting to get laid, the lyrics on Birthmarks express the desire for something more and the complexity that often accompanies trying to acquire that something more. The same herky-jerky rhythms, catchy hooks, and danceable melodies are evident throughout. This album sounds a lot more polished and it expands on their strengths.
“Needle” kicks things off and immediately shows off the band’s penchant for crafting off-kilter songs that get stuck in your head and don’t leave very easily. Moving through the track-list it’s hard to find a song you’d want to skip right away. “6-5000” is another song that you’ll be humming days after you listen to it. If you enjoy these first two songs, you will enjoy “Ocean’s Deep” and “Permanent Hesitation” as well. The structure and sound of “Cold Pop” reminds me of something off of an early Strokes album. Birthmarks doesn’t really slow down at all until you hit “Golden Promises,” which finds the band experimenting with a slower and more layered spacey type of sound. The second half of the album I found to be not nearly as gripping as the first half. That doesn’t mean it’s void of anything worthwhile to listen to. “Rage Flows” and “Dancing on the Edge of our Graves” are both really solid efforts. The latter might have the most anthemic chorus of the entire album. The rest of the songs are neither terrible nor memorable. They fill out the rest of the album and that’s about all I care to say about them.
I’d highly recommend picking up this album and checking these guys out if you’re not familiar with them or were not impressed with their last album. Birthmarks is a marked period of growth for the band that will hopefully continue without losing the qualities that make them unique and enjoyable.