Review: Born Ruffians – Birthmarks
Published on April 19th, 2013 | Jonny Abrams
Local Natives, The Maccabees, Fleet Foxes: you know the kind of thing, heavy on the reverb, intricate on the dynamics, sparing on the spread of colours and with a keen ear for a breezy harmony or two. The trouble with Born Ruffians’ third album Birthmarks is that it feels designed to adhere to this particular niche wherever possible, rather than attempt to challenge anything about it; even the elements of ‘Afro-pop’ (whatever someone decided that is) only serve to emphasise the fact that Vampire Weekend attempted to reconstruct their initial sound, whereas Birthmarks sounds as branded as its title might imply.
There are fleeting moments of invention and warmth – “6-5000” is lively, tangential stuff, strong stuff, while “Ocean’s Deep” embraces sunny pop with a feelgood skip in its stride and a vocal melody that dances with gleeful abandon – but the pedestrian likes of “Rage Flows” maintains interest levels solely by stomping about a bit.
“Cold Pop” has a compelling sway to it, “Golden Promises” builds to a satisfying-enough crescendo, and the blissed-out “Dancing on the Edge of Our Graves” flaunts canny touches such as a woodwind line and a brief interjection of creeping ‘horror movie’ strings; elsewhere, though, there just isn’t enough of interest to go into much more detail about.
This Ontario four-piece are certainly not without their commendable features, which makes such concession to current market trends all the more frustrating. A wider audience may or may not have been the target with Birthmarks, but on this evidence Born Ruffians haven’t got all that much of a message to spread.
Rocksucker says: Two and a Half Quails out of Five!