In answer to the question that the album title raises, No. I am not a friend of Ruth Ruth. Thirteen songs of repetitive pop and whiny lyrics about lost love are not going to make friends out of anyone.
Ruth Ruth’s music is an uninventive mix of the Pixies and Fountains of Wayne, although it never approaches the genius of either band. It serves as a backdrop to Chris Kennedy’s lyrics, which read like bad poetry and are as pleasant as nails on a chalkboard.
It’s not that Kennedy’s a bad singer—he’s actually got a clear, warm voice—but his whining about love and sex leaves him coming off as pretentious and a creep. Certain lyrics—“I’m trying to get hard in the bathroom / Think atomic, Conclusion: queer” for example—suggest that Kennedy is trying for a “smart” look at sex that ends up sounding completely ostentatious. Later, when he rambles on about those who have wronged him and the love he cannot find, you’re left rolling your eyes, not taking pity. Kennedy spouts lines like “I’ve thought about your bloated heart / And how I’ve prayed it would quit pounding” and “Now that I’m rid of you / I’ve even had an erection.” With lines like this, it’s hard to find sympathy when he cries about a broken heart. But he does, many times throughout the album, and each time he sounds increasingly pathetic.
“If I can’t have you,” he cries, “I wake up with a pain I can’t begin to share.” Time and again he throws out lines like this, and on each occurrence you crave for the end of the record. It never seems to come.
There’s just one moment on Are You My Friend? where Kennedy spits out something tolerable. On “Dedicate It to You,” halfway through the album, Kennedy describes what goes into his lyrics. “Cliché upon cliché,” he sings, “And ‘Baby don’t break my heart.’” It’s the only time you can give the man any credit, and that’s only because he knows what you’re thinking—that he’s completely full of shit.