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Poisons That Save Lives

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Album Review

The Rum Diary's Poisons That Save Lives sounds like the answer to that rarely asked musical question, "What would happen if a bunch of emo kids got hold of a stack of early-'70s space rock albums?" The results are actually quite delightful; this style of music has been resurrected several times, most recently by the post-Radiohead, chillily artsy likes of Sigur Rós and Godspeed You Black Emperor!, and just before that by the mid-'90s wave of slowcore bands like Codeine and Bedhead. The similarities between the Rum Diary's take on this music and their immediate predecessors is obvious — the bass, wooden and hollow-sounding, takes the melodic lead most of the time, with the guitars mostly there to anchor the drones and offer single-chord rhythm parts, and the drums are alternately nearly amorphous and tensely, skitteringly, driving — but Poisons That Save Lives is much more musically direct and vibrant than either of the previous subgenres. Their songs have a stronger melodic focus — "Killed By the Cowboy President" is practically a pop song, and would not sound at all out of place on any late-era Yo La Tengo album — and even at their most droning, as on the lengthy closing track, "The No Hunt," the songs are never simply shapeless haze. Highly recommended.


Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '00s

California indie rock collective the Rum Diary joined forces in February 2000, 50 miles outside of San Francisco in the rural town of Cotati. Specializing in a heady blend of dream pop and post-rock, the band consists of multi-instrumentalists Joe Ryckebosch, Schuyler Feekes, Daniel McKenzie, and Jon Fee. Their debut, Noise Points, was released in 2002 on the Substandard Records label. An EP, Key to Slow Time, arrived later that year, followed...
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Poisons That Save Lives, The Rum Diary
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