Move when the world beckons with joy
There is something to be said for a band as consistent as Born Ruffians. They’ve released new music every two years, unfaltering since 2004. Some might see this as too tight a structure considering how impulsive and equally fleeting songwriting can be. It’s not something to be forced, but the other side of that coin says that it’s each to their own. Method is personal, and something has got to be working for Born Ruffians if they’re still going 16 years down the line. The question then is not whether or not this works for the band, but whether it translates into the music?
JUICE is graced by a staple light-heartedness, something on a whim that doesn’t need direction. Born Ruffians make music true to the name, and it gets to a point where it feels uncontrollable. Something that drizzles this album with the band’s free-spirit is their wild instrumental flair that comes out of nowhere. One can recall “Dedication,” a punctuated anthem in cheek where riddling bass lines and Luke Lalonde’s gnarly vocals jump into full-throttle energy with regained 2000s youth. Think Franz Ferdinand, The Strokes at a stretch, but with a daresay naivety that has the power to resonate with today’s youth in a way established names simply can’t.
The thing that gives Born Ruffians all that charm is their unadulterated vigor for making music. It doesn’t seem preoccupied with an industry or money, the fans are at the center of their eyes, you can hear that’s who they’re making music for – it’s hard not to imagine a couple hundred of Gen Z-ers screaming tracks like “I Fall In Love Every Night” and “I’m Fine,” spilling beer on their friends and friends on their beer. When you get to see the honesty behind JUICE, their kind of self-deprecating lyrics that point at the loneliness, the flaws, the passion and the love that drives any teenager, you’ll learn to love Born Ruffians a little bit more. “These words I wrote for her/ I’m a little bit tongue-tied/ shaken up a bit, I’m fine/ just talk a little bit softer” – the word naivety comes to mind again, and in a joyful most humbling sense, because that’s what these words and these songs are about. Young, in love, navigating big awkward feelings, arriving at a reality that maybe isn’t so fine, and pushing through still. Man the band even appeared in an episode of Skins, maybe the most youth-defining show of our time, and that says it all.
It’s odd then, given the relevance, that Born Ruffians haven’t made it quite as big as some of their rivals, or at least not with the fan base you’d expect. Maybe this is where their structure starts seeping through. They’ve been brewing this sound for a long time now and there’s got to come a time where they break the binding chains. It’s method that has got them this far, but it might just be the same thing that’s holding them back from total rebirth, regained direction. These things take time, and a constant two-year holding period might cloud the future for Born Ruffians in a bad way.
No more waiting around. You take a track like “Hey You” featuring Maddy Wilde and the band taps into a kind of new, homemade sensitivity, just like their very first release, Makeshift Metric Catastrophe. It plays with sophisticated melodies that are otherwise lacking across the album and doesn’t just rest on the nostalgia of sound. It’s sweetly swung above our heads, a lullaby for the daytime, and a possible way forwards without losing the fun that has always been a backbone for Born Ruffians.
If structure hasn’t oozed into some of the tracks off JUICE anxiety surely has. A global anxiety that comes with the energy of growing up and feeling more yourself each day. It’s quite beautiful – a vulnerability that doesn’t ask for reason or control, a sense of the world that beckons with joy – so why give it a dosage? Why mark it with a date? Born Ruffians have got it all, in red blue and yellow, and it’s longing to be feral.