Album review: Born Ruffians – ‘Say It’ (Warp)

Toronto threesome strip back but up the exuberance for an uplifting soundtrack to these hard times

Many bands have been doing their damnedest to instil some hope in these fear-stricken days with their lysergic acid-splashed kaleido-rock. Recently, though, the expanding ripples of the chillwaves that [a]Caribou[/a] (née Manitoba) kick-started in 2003 with ‘Up In Flames’ have become anaemic, like slacker-rock dog-ends. [a]Beach House[/a], [a]Girls[/a], [a]Local Natives[/a] – they offer as much joie de vivre and subversion as new Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt’s policies are likely to.

But in a mirror image of spending cuts and harsh realities, the finest are responding like the rest of us: doing just as much but with a lot less. Caribou’s ‘Swim’ is full of anxiously groovy oscillations; [a]Panda Bear[/a] is riding the minimal aggression of cold wave; The xx couldn’t sound more naked if they added arse-slaps to their skeletal songs. And now [a]Born Ruffians[/a], whose latest album of ear-candy is strangely austere.

The Canadian trio’s gently ecstatic 2008 debut told us they could build star-bright songs with just simple, angular riffs, but they were fond, too, of jacking up on sweet melodies. With Rusty Santos on desk duties, and still at that new-psych sound, Born Ruffians made like a collegiate-rock fusion of [a]The Strokes[/a] and [a]Animal Collective[/a].

Fuelled by comics, arcade games and trips to the shooting range, the band’s minds still twitch with unruly imagination. But this time ‘Say It’ recalls the airy refreshment of Vampire Weekend’s ‘Contra’ and the garage-pop fun of [a]Jonathan Richman[/a]’s ‘Rock’N’Roll With The Modern Lovers’. Their taut sun-dazed guitar lines wiggle adorably accompanied by just deft polyrhythmic drumming and understated sax (the gently soulful ‘Come Back’) on folksy, happy-go-lucky psych-pop songs that erase all worry. After all, as Luke LaLondone sings in his just-pubescent voice on ‘The Ballad Of Moose Bruce’, “What a silly world it is, to be so miserable over something inane as this”.

Chris Parkin

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Click here to get your copy of Born Ruffians’ ‘Say It’ from the Rough Trade shop.