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The Rum Diary, Poisions That Save Lives (Substandard)
Northern California's the Rum Diary is like the local college rock band that doesn't realize the five-minute, four-chord jam at the end of its "Superstition" cover is interesting only if you're on stage. But the Rum Diary's taste in excess runs more toward eight-minute Godspeed You! Black Emperor impressions, with plenty of My Bloody Valentine, Jawbox and Sunny Day Real Estate thrown in. (Perhaps the Rum Diary never noticed that only one song on Loveless, MBV's apotheosis, is longer than six minutes.) Still, despite the tendency toward self-indulgence (embodied by the band's two-drum-set gimmick), this ambitious third album is well-realized. Fans of the above bands and of Scotland post-rockers Mogwai should be take notice. "Notorious Young Brothers", in particular, rocks the speakers with its fuzzy cacophony. Weakest track "Killed by the Cowboy President" takes a turn toward emo, utilizing the loud-soft dynamic to skewer Dubya with as little nuance as an average emo band's "girls don't like me" loud-soft epic. Throughout the album, you will be rewarded by repeated listens, as song structures continue to take unexpected paths and squalls of noise threaten at every turn. Sprawling closer "The No Hunt" reaches scattered moments of transcendence. "Brothers and sisters / It's time to decide," declares Daniel McKenzie. With a little time and self-restraint, the Rum Diary's next album could easily inspire revival-style fervor; for now, the band is a little too raw and unfocused. Or maybe, as when seeing the local college jam band, perhaps you just need to be stoned.