By Chris Kompanek
Friday, April 19, 2013
Ecstatic pop rock foursome Born Ruffians is the opposite of detached indie cool. Singer-guitarist Luke LaLonde pours his heart into every note, and bassist Mitch DeRosier often follows with rolling bass lines. Even the band’s name suggests a retro playfulness.
“Birthmarks,” the Toronto-based group’s third release and its first album on Yep Roc, is the most jubilant to date. On opening track “Needle,” LaLonde asserts his freewheeling spirit: “I belong to no one like the watermelon / Rolling with momentum.”
True to his word, that melon picks up speed as the call-and-response chorus bursts the song open with unadulterated glee.
The anthemic chorus of “6-5000,” consisting almost solely of its title’s numbers (and vaguely reminiscent of another numbers-based classic: Tommy Tutone’s “867-5309/Jenny”), begs for a singalong as well, while “Ocean’s Deep” builds on that momentum with the most upbeat phrasing on the album and an equally frenzied bass line.
“Golden Promises” and “With Her Shadow” layer punchy melodies on top of rich soundscapes, showing that there are many shades of joy. The closing track, “Never Age,” echoes this sentiment with a quietly catchy chorus reminiscent of Tom Petty’s “Free Fallin’.” Steve Hamelin’s precise yet whimsical drumming balances flourishes with tight beats throughout and ties the group’s sound together.
By the time LaLonde starts singing “Dancing on the Edge of Our Graves” toward the end of the album, we can’t help but want to join him.