Evolving from last fall’s Hummingbird seven-inch, Toronto-based indie-pop-rock trio BORN Ruffians emerge with Red Yellow & Blue, a disc that should earn them an honest pat on the back. Brimming with love songs drenched in the ferocity of young lust, images of sweaty nights, too much dancing, and cheap beer are still present, though in the background. Without hesitation, the Ruffians poke fun at themselves, each other, and anyone else in the way.
The album-opening title song is short and self-aware, while “Hummingbird” is potent and fast, as Mitch DeRosier’s bass plucks sharply through the opening and high-fives Steve Hamelin’s hi-hat in the middle. Castanets fill the tune in and pummel you with bright bursts of admissions: “The buttons on my phone/know I hate to be alone/when I dial I’m in denial.” “Badonka Donkey” toys with the questions that crop up once resentment supplants love, forcing us to realize that we’re all entirely replaceable, and in “Hedonistic Me,” Luke LaLonde paints an almost Grapes of Wrath-like portrait of the nuclear family working together, then offsets those sepia images with lines like “You know I have, I have a knack/for anything that uses my back.”
BORN Ruffians explores contradiction in “I Need a Life,” gradually working into a powerful admission of lethargy that shakes hands with disillusionment. With its force, Hamelin’s bass drum implies optimism, which may be all they need.
“Kurt Vonnegut” is frisky and embraces the impermanence of things, defiant of the need to preserve. The Ruffians shift with “Red Elephant,” whose ruminations on loving easily, hard, and forever are sweet and well-intentioned, though it’ll take more to convince the jaded that there’s something worthwhile in it all.