The Rum Diary
Poisons That Save Lives
Having read the great Hunter S. Thompson’s novel The Rum Diaries earlier this year, I’ve got to say that the band The Rum Diary bears little resemblance to the music HST’s prose evoked in my head. What I envisioned was a disembodied trumpet playing all forms of twisted free jazz, with Thompson’s clipped, belligerent mumble spitting insanities overtop. The band counters this preconception with a breezy melodic experimentalism that siphons off the best of ’90s shoegaze psychedelica, primordial Chicago post-rock and sweetly somber and incredibly heavy indie rock.
Though the band does the distorted, cavernous growl on par with, or better than, most of the new wave of shoegaze, The Rum Diary’s best side is definitely their softer and more restrained one. “Say Goodbye to Yourself” and “Killed by the Cowboy President” are the disc’s shining lights. They maintain a percolating Pinback structure shot through Dianogah’s low-end filter. Vocals are kept to a relative minimum, but when singer Daniel Mackenzie’s androgynous voice appears it tends to get lost among the chaos and angularity of the music. When it is distinguishable, it flows like a pale manifesto atop the overwhelming melodies; the music noticeably benefits from its presence.
The Rum Diary’s twisted brew might not be the titular poison that saves lives, but it is music that should soothe the ears of many indie rock listeners and maybe even a Hunter S. Thompson fan along the way.