Diamond Rugs’ M.O. for its second album was to stay the course. The indie supergroup—comprised of Deer Tick’s John McCauley and Robbie Crowell, The Black Lips’ former guitarist Ian St. Pé, Dead Confederate’s Hardy Morris, Los Lobos’ Steve Berlin and Six Finger Satellite’s Bryan Dufresne—established itself as a snotty rock and roll group that hip indie fans called for a good time in 2012. While McCauley originally gathered the group together for its self-titled debut, St. Pé and Dufresne initiated the reunion for Cosmetics. Diamond Rugs’ process remained pretty consistent after that: the band recorded the 11-track follow-up to Diamond Rugs in the same Nashville studio and cut it on eight-track tape in the same fashion.
For all of Diamond Rugs’ commitment to staying the same, though, the band ends up looking and sounding more like its predecessors and members’ original bands than its collective self. Aesthetically, Cosmetics evokes the color scheme and spirit of the Beastie Boys’ 1989 masterpiece Paul’s Boutique with its gritty New York street corner shops and imagery. Then, the opening track “Voodoo Doll” serves as the 2015 version of The Replacements’ 1987 “I Don’t Know,” with its vague apathy punctuated by Berlin’s baritone saxophone bursts. Elsewhere, “Couldn’t Help It” could have been a Deer Tick song from 2013’s Negativity sessions.
But when the three-piece horn section, synths and organs all congeal with the band’s regular guitar-bass-drums set-up, the band achieves the perfect balance of a drunk bar band playing a stadium gig—the kind where everyone waves their arms together in time even after that extra beer. “Killin’ Time” and closer “Motel Room” accentuate this with swaying, jangly acoustic guitar strumming alongside taut, snare-like stomping. Songs like these showcase the best of Diamond Rugs’ penchant for big riffs and bawdy entertainment, but the rest of Cosmetics ends up sounding strikingly derivative.