It is slightly odd that the raucous debut EP from Born Ruffians, while not subduing with its brash immediacy, has instead slowly and subtly seduced me. Not to say it has been the kind of seduction that one dreams of just before falling asleep—more like the type which occurs sometime in the early morning when he knows he has had far too much to drink, that his judgment is severely impaired and that he does not particularly care. In any case, the boys from Ontario have had their way with me.
While the songs initially seemed to lack a satisfactory fullness (there is a sketch-like quality to them), they have proven to have an insidious capacity for remaining lodged in the mind, reappearing without warning at various intervals. The simple, skeletal arrangements emphasize the songs themselves, especially what is most captivating in them. Their press release states that they “have that ever-elusive, impossible-to-put-your-finger-on magic factor.” But while it defines this magic factor as “that combination of impeccable songs and drunken youthful swagger,” it seems more to me the collision of two different sensibilities in one body: the one yearning for a tranquil existence, while the other seeks massive amounts of intensified experience, zealously, religiously.
You get a sense of what I am talking about during the opening track, “This Sentence Will Ruin/Save Your Life”, when Luke LaLonde sings, “I need a girlfriend I’m lonely, someone to love me and fuck me / I need to get laid immediately, but also someone to fulfill my needs.” The track itself evinces their more spastic side, pulsing with frantic, kinetic energy, impassioned, indifferent, and finally irresistible. Some of their freak-outs can seem derivative, embedded as they are in the current lexicon of “Indieness.” For instance, the yelping on “Hedonistic Me” has a distinctly Modest Mouse flavor to it, while some of the more esoteric human sounds on the opening track bring to mind the Pixies. In the end though, these moments emanate such earnest, genuinely primal abandon that it is impossible to be overly critical of them.
Born Ruffians are now on Warp—the incomparable label that continues to diversify with uncanny tastefulness—and after a recent stint opening for Peter Björn and John in New York, their audience should begin expanding exponentially any time now. Songs like “I’m One of Those Girls” suggest the depth of their uniqueness, which is sure to be fleshed out more on future releases. From most accounts, Born Ruffians put on a hell of a live show, which is not hard to imagine as one of their main influences, according to their MySpace profile, is “‘grinding’: a form of dancing where girls grind their rear ends into the crotches of young men.”
Thoughtfully masculine, their exuberance is sure to invade your world sometime in the not so distant future.
Pixies – Bossanova
Modest Mouse – The Lonesome Crowded West
Cold War Kids – Robbers and Cowards