Can you call a band made up of moonlighting indie musicians a Super Group? I’m not sure the terminology fits with the flannel shirts and mumbling, but for the sake of this review let’s pretend it does. So: Diamond Rugs are a super group, namely Robbie Crowell (Deer Tick), Ian Saint Pe (Black Lips), Steve Berlin (Los Lobos), Hardy Morris (Dead Confederate), and BryanDufresne (Six Finger Satellite). A posse of garage rock revivalists, on this self-titled debut the group have hewn out a back to fucking basics, no shit Sherlock, blue collar rock opus. Diamond Rugs celebrates drinking, girls, life gone bad, and one bar towns. When it works, it doesn’t so much reinvent the wheel, as remind you why the wheel was so damn good in the first place. On highlights Gimme a Beer, Hightail and Big God, the band channel a divine mix of Lou Reed, Jonathan Richman and yeee-hawing at the moon, and come up trumps. The riffs are effortless, the sneers melodic, and the drums are rough and carefree as tin lids battering in a gale. It’s the sound of a bunch of guys who know what they’re doing, doing it for kicks. Yeah, it’s retro as a Happy Days rerun, but when you can master the basics this well, why bother dicking about trying to fix the unbroken? Look at it this way, no one’s messed with the design of the fork for a loooong time. Why? Because forks do the job just fine.
For all its high points, the album does have its fair share of dropped balls. The sub Van Morrison pub rock of Call Girl Blues is a turgid test of patience, complete with loathsome honking sax. Like a redneck’s hairy arse crack, there’s really no decent reason for it ever to have seen light of day. And for some reason the album closes with its two weakest tracks – the lyrically woeful Hungover and Horny (the clunking, prosaic title really does say it all), and the Christmas-on-the-skids closer Christmas in a Chinese Restaurant which sounds like the Pogues, minus Kirsty MacColl, playing Hey Jude, pointlessly. It’s a shame the album ends on this crap note, because its strong tracks easily outweigh the weak. Approached with a judiciously cropped playlist, Diamond Rugs scores a rocking 8, as it is it’s an under achieving, nearly great-but-not-quite 6/10.