Drunk-punk supergroup Diamond Rugs counts members from Deer Tick, Black Lips, Los Lobos, Dead Confederate, and Six Finger Satellite. Really, though, they’re just a new Deer Tick, with John J. McCauley III taking the most rocking parts of Divine Providence to the Nth degree for the band’s self-titled debut. Surprisingly, that’s a compliment to this band of hard-drinkin’ rockers.
Despite gimmicks galore, the album’s got oodles of substance. “Christmas in a Chinese Restaurant” may reference moo goo gai pan and “Feliz Navidad”, but its sparse instrumentation and chilly vibe, courtesy of McCauley’s lonely-yet-resolved vocals, bring to life a sense of yuletide hopelessness. “Call Girl Blues” is a clichéd celebration of a working girl with a heart of gold. Add in filthy-sounding ’70s R&B horns alongside lines like “She’ll slip a $20 in your pocket just for holding the door,” and you’ve got something shinier than gold. The gimmicky piece de resistance, however, is “Hungover and Horny”; a fusion of tight-knit garage guitar and a Georgia Satellites-inspired sense of rollicking are a powerful start. It’s McCauley’s vocals, brimming with sexual desperation, that thrust the goof into the realm of true blues-ian lament.
Sans gimmicks, the LP picks up even more momentum. “Hightail” is seemingly another “my woman done left me” jam (albeit with a raucous psych-garage guitar); it’s the subtext that paints a picture of a man ready for more heartache. “Big God” accomplishes a similar feat, offering up an explosive ’60s garage thud and even more insight into the man’s romantic failings (“I was blind to time as time can be/Open eyes don’t always mean to see”). The Calypso-tinged “I Took Note” is a defining statement, brimming with arena rock-ready grandiosity, with lyrics that are evocative and yet heavy with the group’s trademark sensibility (“I changed my diet, I slept under stars/And my long hair still stayed bloody”). It’s the perfect synthesis of regality and rambunctiousness, the kind of tune this all-star ensemble could easy craft.
Even if this act is Deer Tick 2.0, this is still an album of infectious, ultra-grimy blues-rock tunes from dudes who’ve mastered the equation and then some. Now shotgun a brew and get to listening, dudes and dudettes.
Essential Tracks: “Call Girl Blues”, “Hungover and Horny”, “Hightail”, and “I Took Note”