DAVE DAVIES, BYLINE: Diamond Rugs is a new band formed by members of other bands, including John McCauley and Robbie Crowell of Deer Tick, Steve Berlin from Los Lobos and Hardy Morris of Dead Confederate. They came together last fall in Nashville to record an album titled "Diamond Rugs."
Rock critic Ken Tucker has a review.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)
DIAMOND RUGS: (Singing) Well, I can't go back, no I can't go back. I made my home so far away. Oh, the things that she would do, now I can't believe it's true. I wish that she would stay. Never...
KEN TUCKER, BYLINE: Diamond Rugs is one those bands that wants you to think it prizes spontaneity and sloppy good fun more than careful song construction and technical polish. And the album, also titled "Diamond Rugs," almost succeeds in convincing you of its sloppy aesthetic, delivering songs about drinking and carousing to excess, only to be left morose in one's cups.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "TOTALLY LONELY")
RUGS: (Singing) Totally lonely. Totally lonely. Totally lonely. Totally lonely. Totally lonely. Totally lonely. All the stupid things I've done and the stupid things I do to cover it up. Here I am. Totally.
TUCKER: That song, "Totally Lonely," is one of the few out-and-out downbeat songs on this collection. The rest of the time, even the break-up songs have a propulsive power, as in this one, "Hightail," in which a woman took a good, hard look at what she was getting into with one of these guys and she, quote, "straight up and fled."
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "HIGHTAIL")
JOHN MCCAULEY: (Singing) My baby was moving to the inside, looking like she was pulling ahead. And then when things started getting real tricky, my baby straight up and fled. She never really put her whole heart into it. She never tried. That's what I said. I've had my down points and I've gotten real nasty, but my baby straight up and fled.
(Singing) She moved out West, from what I read. I got problems, but no more problems than any other man. I got tried and convicted, but I'm doing the best I can. The story is going and life just goes on any (unintelligible). I've got to pick myself up, up from my bootstraps and get out there again. And don't you realize that I...
TUCKER: Diamond Rugs is now John McCauley's third band, after Deer Tick and Middle Brother, and I admit to a fascination with his blasted-vocal-cord voice. He takes most of the leads on Diamond Rugs, and he has a knack for making not just hangovers and soured romance sound convincing.
I really like this song called, "I Took Note," written by another band, Mandarin Dynasty, in which McCauley details the ways in which a budding artist might prepare to create worthwhile art, suffering for it even as it yields an endearing melody.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "I TOOK NOTE")
MCCAULEY: (Singing) I heard the albums. I took note of all the necessities to be an artist. I closed my eyes. I shut my snout. I cut my arms up inside a closet. I walked the path lit by moon, and I swept my broom behind me. I changed my diet. I slept under stars, and my long hair still stayed bloody.
TUCKER: With song titles like "Gimme a Beer" and "Hungover and Horny," Diamond Rugs are daring you to take them seriously. But this album is stuffed with tuneful paradoxes: fast, loud, punk-influenced instrumentation asserting a bravado that cannot disguise a broken heart, regret and pain.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)
MCCAULEY: (Singing) You pushed me right out of my hometown. (Unintelligible) he had time to look down, and I have read your work. And I have read some worse. But it hurts to watch what you love so much. It hurts to watch what you love so much. I was blind to time, as time can be. Open eyes don't always mean they see. But I read your work, and I've read some worse. But it hurts...
TUCKER: With a big rhythm section and melodies that expand to take in influences including 1950s country music and 1960s British-invasion rock, Diamond Rugs is a band that's determined to avoid easy category, a consistent point of view or even a signature sound. I might call it, at its best, timeless. The band, in its unpretentious way, might just call it lucky this stuff was being recorded when various spirits moved them.
DAVIES: Ken Tucker is editor-at-large at Entertainment Weekly. He reviewed the self-titled album from the new band Diamond Rugs. Coming up, film critic David Edelstein on a new dark treatment of the Snow White story. This is FRESH AIR.