February 06, 2004

The Rum Diary "Poisons that Save Lives"

I'm convinced that post math-rock epic whatever you want to call it indie rock is this generation's stoner rock. You know the combination well--two minutes of quiet guitar, a minute of buildup, then...boom! the meat of the song (which, surprisingly, is usually only two or three minutes long) followed either by three or four minutes of outro wank and/or an immediate fade into the next track, which starts with three minutes of guitar wank. Much of this kind of music seems to only make sense if you're chemically imbalanced, and a lot of it just flat out isn't interesting if you're sober. I didn't survive my close friends' obsession with Queensryche only to live through the exact same thing with Sigur Ros, thank you very much.

Rum Diary's different, though. Poisons That Save Lives, their second album, taps nicely into the zeitgeist of epic post-rock, but instead of languishing in obscurity/mediocrity, they actually do something with their music. While they do get all epic throughout the album, they do it with enough skill and grace that you don't mind it at all, and it's this attention to melody and simplicty that makes for a rewarding listen. They make a point of mentioning that their record was recorded in their home, and it sounds like it: Poisons that Save Lives has a very soothing, relaxing quality that makes for an easy listen, especially while lounging on the couch. See, underneath the noise is a folky vibe. Just listen past the noise, the sheets of sound and Steven Jesse Bernstein samples and you'll hear it.

Sure, they do occasionally rock out, like on "Killed by the Cowboy President" or "It's Midnight," and when they do, they sound like a younger version of For Against, and that's a good thing. But don't mistake them for a rock band, because they're not. They never get too soft and mellow, nor do they get really hard rockin', they apparently like to stay somewhere in the middle, because apparently the turbulent, unstable atmosphere between the two extremes makes things much more interesting. The epic finale, "The No Hunt," is a great example of this. For the first ten minutes, they get hard--real hard--but for the last eight minutes, they're extremely mellow (even delving into pure silence.

I've really enjoyed Poisons That Save Lives. It's not too weird, not too arty, not too complex--it's just right. If you want to get mellow without being preached at or confounded by complex musical passages. Rum Diary's a band to watch, because this kind of quality music deserves to be heard, and, in the weird musical world we live in.

--Joseph Kyle

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