There is a road paved by trial, tribulation, shattered love, joy, and dreams, it sits just outside Providence, Rhode Island. If you go looking for it you probably won’t find it, but if you sit back and accept the journey, paved by War Elephant, Born on Flag Day, The Black Dirt Sessions and Divine Providence, you’ll see a rolling version of Americana that in unrivaled in its grit, passion and swagger.
The echoing punk-folk that Deer Tick has crafted like a well-aged whisky adds another mile to the road McCauley and crew started a decade ago. Searing vocals and swaying licks mingle with horns, vintage American harmonies and Faith No More-esc piano endings in Negativity.
With the release of Negativity, Tick’s fifth studio release, several things become glaringly obvious. First, gone is the deep dark picking acoustic days of John McCauley. The teenage angst and misunderstood lonesome ballads have been met with a realization that his art and his ideas are not alone; in fact, they have quite the following these days. Secondly, the raging punk infused backwoods sound has been turned down a notch. Which, looking back, seemed somewhat short lived. Next, a lighter (for as light as Deer Tick can be with their sound) more reflective mentality has taken lead; though the heavy down strum and meandering vocals still blossom. And lastly, I am one guy who loves every minute of it.
This latest record expands what was once a raunchy, unrefined sound via a plethora of compositions. Overall it would almost seem the lingering effects of Middle Brother have cast an aura on the style Deer Tick is producing. But there is the blistering opening “The Rock”, the heavy blues of “Trash,” the foot-tapping duet with, now Mrs. McCauley, Vanessa Carlton “In Our Time,” and the down-tempo ballad I hoped to hear “Hey Doll.” And through it all the one thing to take away is the fact that Deer Tick continues to thrive, grow and pave their road; their way.
The common thread for Deer Tick, all albums included, is that you have never experienced heartbreak like you hear from the Tick. Next time a Grammy Award Winner cuts a heartbreak single think to yourself “Oh Taylor Swift is sad?” then promptly rub some Deer Tick on it. The more you listen, the better they get. They are, without a doubt in my mind, one of the most important, must-hear bands of our time.