BY APRIL S. ENGRAM
From their modern-rock, kinetic beginnings on their 2008 debut LP, Red, Yellow & Blue to their current fifth album, Uncle, Duke & the Chief, Canadian group Born Ruffians has morphed their rock stylings over the years. They exit the proverbial time warp tunnel with a sophisticated release that beckons recollections of classic rock groups while forging their own sound. Influences from Buddy Holly to Beach Boys to even The Beatles are felt on Uncle, Duke & the Chief and Born Ruffians rightfully stand in good company.
Born Ruffians, Luke Lalonde (guitar/vocals), Mitch Derosier (bass), and Steve Hamelin (drums)—now joined by Andy Lloyd (guitar/keyboard)—created not just an album but an experience with Chief that feels like a narrative from beginning to end. Love is the crux of each tale, or song, and titles like “Forget Me,” “Miss You,” and “Love Too Soon” preemptively tell the end of each story before it begins.
Much of Uncle, Duke & the Chief leaves listeners with a genteel and bittersweet impression as songs like “Forget Me,” and “Love Too Soon” dance on your ears. The latter is a short and beautiful ballad that doesn’t breach 3 minutes; the soft song includes the quiet strums of an electric guitar, bass, the occasional tambourine and wistful whistles that add to the emptiness of the track. Lalonde’s vocals swim between mellow, cool like on the laid-back track “Side Tracked” and sharp trills, shouts on the more upbeat and bubbly tracks. The cheerful songs holster a juxtaposition as tales of heartbreak are unveiled; Lalonde asks the question “when are you gonna come home” on “Tricky,” and “do you miss me the way I miss you, baby” on “Miss You.”
Uncle, Duke & the Chief’s story is then lifted from the auricular realm to the visual as the sentiments are translated into the music videos that accompany Chief’s three singles: “Love Too Soon,” “Forget Me,” and “Miss You.” The videos, in this order, illustrates the three stages of a relationship from first smitten, to the building and the unraveling, to the pain of remorse then joy of reconciliation. Since each video was directed by the same artists, Leah Fay Goldstein and Peter Dreimanis, a similar visual style is weaved in all three and paints a beautifully and uniquely weird, but relative, story.
Closing track “Working Together” has a Beatles-esque vibe as the acoustic guitar strums over piano and drums as the track sways side-to-side. The “come together” moment is sealed as the track closes with multiple voices joining Lalonde to repeatedly sing the chorus: “We’re working together/Love comes to whoever wants it/All good things are free/Wave to nobody.”
DOWNLOAD: “Love Too Soon,” “Tricky,” “Side Tracked”