Cotati's Rum Diary has a pleasantly novel approach to the (once?) hip indie school of shoegazer rock. True, there's plenty of tense, judiciously distorted guitar à la Spiritualized, but the bass is much more of a "lead" instrument here; in fact, We're Afraid of Heights Tonight often deploys two basses simultaneously. Meanwhile, the melancholic, somewhat gauzy vocal harmonies are subdued to almost-whisper level, and there's some dry-ice cool celestial organ (think early Pink Floyd) besides. While often minimalist and never exactly "peppy," the band displays occasional spunk 'n' verve, such as the gallop-paced "Double Dragon" and the Kraut-rock motorik "Back in the Hardcore Days." We're Afraid is marked by substantial flair for winsome melodies and a refreshing lack of wretched excess, making the Rum Diary a contender for top of the US postpunk gloom merchant heap.
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