Lookbacks: Birthmarks by Born Ruffians

I’ve heard my fair share of weird lyrics with the music I listen to. From “Dreaming of your god damn long nails,” to “You just wanna know those peanut butter vibes.” Music in any genre tend to include lyrics or a specific lyric which leaves the listener wondering, “What the hell?!”

Album Cover for Birthmarks

“Needle”, the track which sparked my interest in Born Ruffians in the first place,  starts off with a dreamily sung prelude by lead vocalist Luke Lalonde. Lalonde croons the lyrics, “I belong to no one/Like the watermelon/Rolling with momentum/Spitting out its seeds.”

My initial thoughts were…huh? But it continued, “Buried under snow and/Waiting just to show us/How it grows and knows how/Yummy it will be.”

It sounds like something you would hear at the beginning of a children’s novel, but this is one of the reasons I love this album and this band. They’re interesting, unique, weird, all of the above.

Born Ruffians are a four piece indie rock band from Midland, Ontario which formed in 2004. The best way to describe them? Peppy, feel good, weird alternative rock. The band has a unique rhythm that’s almost instantaneously infectious as it is interesting.

Photo Courtesy of Exclaim.ca
Photo Courtesy of Exclaim.ca

This week’s Lookback touches on the band’s  third studio album, Birthmarks, which released back in 2013. Birthmarks originally took me quite a bit of time to actually get into; it’s an album you have to listen to a few times before it becomes something you can appreciate.

The music of Born Ruffians echoes the sounds of Modest Mouse, intricate lyrics and catchy harmonies populate their music to the point where the two bands seem almost parallel to each other not only in sound but in spirit also.

“Needle” starts off the album with guitar riffs and a catchy chorus anyone can sing along to.”Ocean’s Deep” follows suit with a quirky foot-tapping rhythm that flows along perfectly with the bass and guitar riffs. “6-5000” is mostly a track where Lalonde demonstrates the power of his vocals, hitting a higher range which picks up towards the end of the chorus. It almost seems like he’s just screaming at one point.

“Permanent Hesitation” has a sound that immediately takes me to an 80’s disco, becoming a track one needs to dance to. If you don’t it’s almost a crime.

Born Ruffians rely on riveting bass lines and infectious guitar riffs on the majority of their music. Every song has a distinctive riff or a sound where you’d immediately say, “that’s Born Ruffians.” It’s almost impossible to miss them.

Tracks like “So Slow” and “Golden Promises” stray from the band’s original style, but at the same time its a great way to capture the many talents the band has under their sleeve. They can create catchy alt-pop hits while also simmering down and creating tracks that sort of ground the listener.

This album, in my opinion, is an indie gem. An album that seems to be overlooked the majority of the time. People usually only listen to “Needle” and miss out on the other great tracks the band creates on the rest of the album.  Definitely give Birthmarks a thorough listen next time around, you never know what you’ll miss.

Key tracks: “Needle”, “Rage Flows”, “Dancing On the Edge of Our Graves”, “Ocean’s Deep”, and “Cold Pop”

If you like acoustics, Born Ruffians actually released an acoustic EP version of Birthmarks as well. The EP includes acoustic renditions of “Rage Flows”,  “Needle” and “Never Age”.

You can check out Born Ruffians on iTunes and Amazon (and stream below).


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