Born Ruffians: Say It (Paper Bag/Warp) 

For 43 minutes and 21 seconds, the Violent Femmes set fermented teenage desire in amber on their first album. Born Ruffians pick up that polished gem and play skipping stones with it. Their latest, Say It, charts the trajectory of that stone from palm to riverbed.

Luke LaLonde's hyena-yelp delivery on tracks like "Sole Brother" owes fealty to Gordon Gano, mostly for the revivalist preacher persona he adopts. But LaLonde is less Paul Dano from There Will Be Blood, and more Kevin Bacon from Footloose. "I just wanna set the world on fire!" he sings on "Retard Canard," because, "Baby, remember what they told you never?"

The signature piece here might be "Higher and Higher," a ramshackle spiritual about acknowledging the limits of one's capacity ("never gonna make it, reflect it and replace it") yet endeavoring to surpass them anyway ("I'm just gonna take it ... and relay it"). These boys want to celebrate, not castigate.

"Nova-Leigh" is near-perfect, our new anthem of vulnerability and bravado. "I'll be tired when I'm dead," LaLonde boasts. He parlays this into "Blood, the Sun and Water," where world-weary rebellion gives way to uproarious joie de vivre. "I believe in things that I can't see!" he pronounces, all rock mysticism.

This album is essential listening. The Ruffians' barbaric yawps are unapologetic and guiltless. Fire and brimstone is so 1983.

More by Sean Bottai


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