Some bands strive to mature into deeper themes and more thoughtful approaches after their first few albums, but Toronto's Born Ruffians seem to be channeling their inner adolescent on their fourth full-length effort, 2015's Ruff. Between the purposeful simplicity of these melodies, the goofy, often monstrous characters drawn by group leader Luke Lalonde for the album's lyric booklet, and the childlike glee with which he embraces the slightly rude lyrics of "(Eat Shit) We Did It" and "Fuck Feelings," Ruff often sounds like a celebration of the youthful enthusiasm and simplicity that fueled the group in its earliest days in Midland, Ontario. At the same time, Ruff's youthful spontaneity and playful spirit don't mean the band has become sloppy or careless; the performances here are expert and often inspired, and the ethereal soundscapes that punctuate "When Things Get Pointless I Roll Away" and the thunderous distortion on "Let Me Get It Out" show this band's sense of adventure is working well. Ruff feels like a product of the studio, an album where Born Ruffians and producer Jeff McMurrich were willing to work with the songs until they got the sometimes angular sound they wanted, with the twists and turns of Lalonde and Andy Lloyd's guitars carrying the songs, though Mitch Derosier's deep, solid bass pulse and Adam Hindle's simple but thoughtful drumming do wonders to hold the frameworks of the songs in place. On Ruff, Born Ruffians seem to be pondering their own stylistic concepts and the boundaries of their creative process as much as moving on from the forward thinking of 2013's Birthmarks, and they seem to be happy about where they're headed. If it's not the group's finest work, it has a genuine emotional purity and reaffirms Born Ruffians' place on the Canadian indie rock scene.
AllMusic Review by Mark Deming