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Review: Born Ruffians – Uncle, Duke & The Chief

With the original lineup back together, Born Ruffians recorded Uncle, Duke & The Chief which will be released very shortly. Following a few events that had an impact, it would have been easy to release a sad-sounding album. Instead of doing so, Born Ruffians have released something that is much more upbeat.

Aside from a few lines here and there, most of the album seems to be more lighthearted and romantic in tone than its subject matter would suggest. This is a good thing as the lyrics are not written to be as heavy as they can be and they aren’t as developed as they could have been. Had they been more so, then the lyrics would be at odds with the music.

The song structures themselves are quite straightforward and seem to be influenced by various kinds of guitar pop. Each instrument is kept simple and for the most part laid back, giving the album a fairly relaxing feel.

The vocals a matter of “love it or hate it”. They can be seen as either harsh and grating or youthful and energetic. They mostly work well for each song and sound quite strong, but are detrimentally impacted by one particular issue that affects the rest of the album: the overuse of reverb.

As with many other records of recent years, there’s too much reliance on reverb and instead of being an enhancement it has a a negative impact on the album. The reverb puts distance between the songs and what they’re trying to get across whilst also being quite distracting. However, the reverb impacts the vocals the most. The vocals become much more harsh than they would have been dry and in parts they audibly distort. It doesn’t make for pleasant listening.

With that being said, there are two songs where the reverb does work better than the rest of the album: “Fade To Black” and “Love Too Soon”. “Fade To Black” is a much faster and energetic song than the rest of the album. The reverb helps gives the song a bit of a fuller, more striking song. “Love Too Soon” is the quietest and most minimal song on the album which leads to it having a lot more space. It’s still distracting on this song, but it works much better as there’s a lot less happening. These two songs would have been much better dry, but in the context of this album they do work with the reverb.

Despite issues, Uncle, Duke & The Chief is a decent album. Born Ruffians could have released something much more depressing and morose, but instead they opted for something much more upbeat and celebratory in a way. The quality of the album is consistent and makes for a fun listen. In that regard, both the band and fans have a record that is a success.

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