The debut album from Diamond Rugs started out as a solo project from John McCauley of Deer Tick, but after he recruited a curious but intriguing lineup of musicians and they started playing together in the studio, he found out he wasn't the only one on hand with ideas for songs. After listening to the album, it's not hard to imagine that this revelation was prompted by a certain amount of liquid refreshment; most of the best and most enjoyable songs on Diamond Rugs involve getting drunk, and the playing has the loose and loopy feel of a jam session where the players were up for just about anything after a few beers. The musicians on Diamond Rugs are good enough to make these performances sound potent and emphatic, with Ian Saint Pe of the Black Lips and Hardy Morris of Dead Confederate on guitars, Steve Berlin of Los Lobos on sax and keys, Robbie Crowell of Deer Tick on bass, and Bryan Dufresne of Six Finger Satellite behind the drums. The songs have a ragged swagger that lurks somewhere between a Stones tribute act and the second-best garage band in town, and this ad hoc group tears into their makeshift tunes with commendable vigor, if a sometimes shaky grasp. In the supergroup stakes, Diamond Rugs most clearly recall Golden Smog in the way the songs reflects the personalities of the individual members and feel more like a boozy hoot than an attempt to fashion a new body of "serious" work. If this isn't as good as Golden Smog's small body of work, one could reasonably argue that outside of Steve Berlin, no one in Diamond Rugs has made a record as good as Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, Hollywood Town Hall, or Hang Time, all of which have ties to the Golden Smog brand. Still, Diamond Rugs is a lot more fun and less self-conscious than what Deer Tick usually delivers, and these guys might do well to pony up for a couple cases of beer and give this another try, though no one involved is advised to give up their other gigs yet.
Diamond Rugs Review
by Mark Deming