In their eponymous debut, The Diamond Rugsâ€”John McCauley and Robbie Crowell (Deer Tick), local hero Hardy Morris (Dead Confederate), Ian St. Pe (The Black Lips), Steve Berlin (Los Lobos, not a misprint) and Bryan Dufresne (Six Finger Satellite)â€”shoulder the tattered “supergroup” banner for indie bands everywhere. They’re good enough to handle it. The result is a punchy collection of post-hardcore power pop that diverges from the artists’ historical work just enough to keep things interesting.Â Morris reports that the album came together naturally. It shows.
Any mystery about the sound is answered in the first 145 seconds with the superb St. Pe country punk, “Hightail”â€”think Buddy Holly after listening to The Ramones for two days. No time is wasted from there. The longest of the 14 tracks (the chaotic pedal steel-infused buzz of Morris’ “Country Mile”) clocks in at 4:33, and half the songs are under three minutes. It’s a concise piece of work.
McCauley carries the majority of the vocal water. Deer Tick fans confused by the recent Divine Providence will be comforted to hear him in a more-listenable pop incarnation here. His propensity for lyrical laziness is present, with an overly repetitive focus on beer, women or both (“I’m a kinda feeling, like a lion, or a tiger, listening to my baby purrrr” from the unfortunately titled “Gimme a Beer,” along with the even more unfortunately titled “Hungover and Horny”). But when he’s onâ€”the irresistible brass-drenched Springsteen-esque romp, “Call Girl Blues” or the verse-verse-verse coming-of-age mediation “I Took Note”â€”you’re smiling.
Morris adds focused muscle to the proceedings. The taut march of his menacing “Motherland,” complete with ethereal harmonica details, is an album highlight. He steers the new punk gallop of “Big God” like he’s made a living in the genre. Most listeners will find this more accessible than his work with Dead Confederate.
The presence of Berlin and Dufresne brings flourishes of instrumentation into the mix. Berlin’s brass accents add authority to the biting “Tell Me Why,” and a plaintive tone to (album lowlight) “Christmas in a Chinese Restaurant.” Even an accordion shows up in the Gene Autry high-plains drone of “Totally Lonely” (the album’s endearing oddity).
Who knows if there’s a future here? For now, viva la “indie supergroup!”
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