Earlier this week, I had a birthday. It was a big one, if you’re one of those people that measure age in terms of “big ones” and “not so big ones”, involving a 0 in the ones column and an even number in the tens. I’m not one to dwell on age or to mourn the passing of youth, especially because I don’t think of myself as being defined by my age.
Now, Luke Lalonde and the boys in Born Ruffians may not be as old as I am now, but I was once as old as they are now, and I totally get it when they sing “When I was a boy/I wished that I was older/Wished that I was taller/Tall enough to see,” at the beginning of their new record, Birthmarks. “To see the things I see today/how I wish they’d go away/how they led me far astray/strayed from what I need.”
I don’t know exactly what it is that Lalonde needs, but it sounds to me that on “Needle” (the song in question) and on the rest of Birthmarks, he wants, and is searching for, is reassurance–maybe from fans, friends, family, or himself–that even though maybe he hasn’t become the person he imagined he would be when he was younger, it’s okay to be who he is, and for Born Ruffians to be the band they have become. At first flush, I thought Birthmarks was a kind of second birth for the band, but as I’ve spent more and more time with this record, I realized it’s less of a new beginning and more an acceptance and comfort in their skin. Quirky melodies that defy prediction: witty lyrics that can make you chuckle and sniffle in the same stanza: staccato rhythms that punctuation with exclamation points rather than commas: these are the marks that signify a Born Ruffians song, the traits and characteristics the band has embraced, highlighted in some cases, and celebrate on Birthmarks.
No one song stands out above the others, which is a good thing because each song, whether sonically or lyrically, feels deeply connected to the others. It may not be obvious to the listener, but I get the sense that for Born Ruffians, there’s an underlying statement to Birthmarks as a whole that has resonance and meaning for them. That meaning is open for interpretation for those who listen to it, but at the same time you don’t need to get deep into the record to enjoy following its whims and whimsies and finding your own little joy in its noise.
Isn’t finding a little joy in life really what we all want? Whether I’m 20, 30, or (gasp!) 40, I still feel like that kid taking it all in, trying to find a comfortable place to sit, stand, or lean in this world, and feeling comfortable with who and what I am and have become.
Birthmarks is available now.
Tags: Born Ruffians