Trying to come up with a shoegazer type of rock band that doesn’t sound pretentious or over-the-top is a hard thing to do, especially since the rapid rise of popularity of The Flaming Lips as a viable band with no talent. The Rum Diary does have talent, no questions about it, but there is virtually no soul behind this music. Take “Killed By The Cowboy President”, for example, a track that falls into the typical glorification of newer Radiohead, instead of going alone with their own style. Moving into a Pink Floyd wank-fest of stretched out vocals and distorted bass in “Portals of Salt Like”, The Rum Diary continue to show their talent in aping bands that have came before them. In the liner notes for “Poisons That Save Lives”, props are given to “the West Coast Bretheryn”, specifically Desert City Soundtrack. Desert City Soundtrack and The Rum Diary are two similar bands, and I believe that a comparison would help to show exactly what went well for Desert City but what also went bad for The Rum Diary.
While the Desert City Soundtrack was able to create two memorable albums in Contents of Distraction and Funeral Car, the fact was is that DCS could create epics with their music – Die Gotterdamurung in a five minute song. Everything was there, from the brooding bass line and drum beat in the beginning to the white hot light of the guitar solo at the end. The Rum Diary would prefer to stay in the muckiness of the low range of things, without much desire to try to create songs with a message. With vocals that are continually distorted and without any energy, the disc just doesn’t get off the ground. While there are no tangible problems with the disc, no dropped guitars, no off-key vocals, there are no bright spots either.
The Rum Diary has the technical ability to play at the level of a Desert City Soundtrack, but this disc critically underperforms at the times when individuals would expect that extra bit of flashiness. Perhaps what can be heard for the briefest moment guitar-wise in “It’s Midnight” can become more commonplace, and The Rum Diary can take its rightful places as minor deities of shoegazer rock. However, “Poisons That Save Lives” is a disc that one can pass up. If you must pick up an album with the same general vibe going for it, pick up “Funeral Car” by Desert City Soundtrack. Otherwise, wait until The Rum Diary puts out a new album.
Rating : 5.1/10
Top Track: It’s Midnight
The Rum Diary – Poisons That Save Lives / 2003 Substandard Records / 8 Tracks / http://www.therumdiary.net / http://www.substandard.com / Reviewed 31 December 2003