Luke Lalonde sings at NXNE 2015 in Toronto on June 19, 2015. (Photo by Deborah Helena)
Canadian quartet Born Ruffians are really in a damn good moment.
Led by vocalist Luke Lalonde, the band has honed its post-punk melodies to the point where I would argue that they are superior to many other offerings in their genre, even if their music occasionally echoes the sounds of those others — ranging from Vampire Weekend to Interpol.
Yes, I am daring to suggest that Born Ruffians right now, at this moment, are better than Vampire Weekend or Interpol.
But first things first, Luke and his compatriots are touring on a strong new album — their fourth — RUFF, released earlier this year on Yep Rock Records. In support of that tour, they made a stop at the Rock and Roll Hotel Tuesday for a show that was close to being sold out.
Armed with strong new songs and a devil-may-care attitude, Luke and his band pounded through colorful numbers like “Eat Shit (We Did It).” As you may guess, the song is a bit of a victory lap for seven or eight years of Born Ruffians. But it’s also so ridiculously catchy. The song hits every point it has to hit with Luke’s blasé voice, angular guitars on full and a rhythm section that lets the guitars do their thing.
The official video captures the spirit of the song as Luke endures — well, even encourages — the worst party guests ever in his celebratory declaration that haters should “eat shit.”
Watch the official video for “Eat Shit (We Did It)” on YouTube:
The attitude of GRUFF indifference runs through RUFF, which has songs titled the likes of “Stupid Dream,” “When Things Get Pointless I Roll Away,” and “Fuck Feelings.”
If those songs sound mean, they are not per se. They are really a poke in the eye to all things serious. The attitude of the band on record, and on stage, is all about kicking back and leaving well enough alone. In other words: Don’t worry; be happy.
And so lead single “Don’t Live Up” is a cautionary tale of getting too wrapped up in your life, playing on the words “don’t give up.” Sure, now you’ve made it, but don’t lose sight of yourself or what it was all about, the song suggests.
On “Don’t Live Up,” guitars by Luke and Andy Lloyd are bright and buoyant; bass by Mitch Derosier is steady and deep; and drums by Adam Hindle catch an almost military cadence, particularly on the snappy notes at the tail of the title admonishment, “don’t live up,” in the chorus.
It is one of several moments where the sound of Born Ruffians is akin to that of Vampire Weekend, but that’s OK when you realize that the Talking Heads have been a big influence on the musical mix of both bands. It’s a little less OK that Born Ruffians aren’t as big as Vampire Weekend — they should be, in my humble opinion!
Born Ruffians closed the main set with “We Made It,” another song from RUFF, and that’s a song that smacks a few notes reminiscent of the more muscular post-punk of Interpol, particularly with its advice of “fake it until you make it” — which sounds a lot like something Paul Banks would say.
By way of this comparison, I’m really hoping to draw parallels as to demonstrate that Born Ruffians should be selling out the 9:30 Club like Interpol or Bloc Party. I’m a new wave kid at heart, and all of the modern crop of post-punk bands are absolute winners when it comes to making my feet dance.
Watch Luke perform an acoustic rendition of “We Made It” on Exclaim! TV on Oct. 5, 2015:
And although I have a lot of fondness for the new album, Born Ruffians didn’t forget their longtime fans. They played quite a few numbers from their well-regarded debut album, Red, Yellow & Blue, starting the show with “Kurt Vonnegut.”
Also in the set, Luke and company delivered the crowd-pleaser “& On & On & On” as well as “Little Garçon,” which prompted one of the most fervent audience singalongs of the evening.
“Oh, come and dance with me,” calls out “Little Garçon,” and you have plenty of opportunities to do just that with Born Ruffians as they continue their US tour over the next month or so. They pick it up in Atlanta on Friday and travel across the country to slip into Canada and end with a three-night stand in Toronto in mid-December.
If you love post-punk but you don’t know the Born Ruffians, catch up fast — and go see them now. It will be the best show you catch — from a band that should be bigger — in the near future.