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[REVIEW] DEER TICK “NEGATIVITY” – AN INVITATION TO THEIR CAREER HANGOVER

[REVIEW] DEER TICK “NEGATIVITY” – AN INVITATION TO THEIR CAREER HANGOVER

[REVIEW] DEER TICK “NEGATIVITY” – AN INVITATION TO THEIR CAREER HANGOVER

We ask a lot from musicians; as an audience we expect constantly progressive, evolving mechanics and intrusive intimacy. For years now Deer Tick has been feeding us foreplay; the famed grime and grit of alternative rock n’ roll, the seduction, only hinting at the hangover with shameless self deprecation. Their latest record, Negativity, is the post coitus cuddle, the private space we don’t necessarily deserve, but so aggressively demand.

In a recent viral interview with Zane Lowe of BBC, Kanye West claimed that rappers are the new rock stars, and he might not be far off the mark, rock n’ roll in it’s quintessential form is fading. Deer Tick front man, John McCauley, has been whipping out his genitals and slamming into drum kits for years, taking on this Sid Vicious moniker, trying to resurrect and maintain a character that only partially depicted his essence, but has maintained the band’s sought after wiley reputation.

Their last record, Divine Providence, found mixed reception; an amalgamation of punk, Americana and folk, with rowdy anthems like “Let’s All Go To The Bar” and “The Bump.” Often chastised for skimming the emotional surface, offering up frat-rock and obnoxious gimmicks, Deer Tick was simply giving us their stage version of contemporary Rock n’ Roll, and how often do we get that anymore?

On Negativity, through the lenses of alternating band members, Deer Tick invites us to their career hangover, while keeping in tune with their rock roots, and straying from the cheesy diatribe of a VH1 behind the scenes special. The punk edge is relinquished from the booze cruise they were formerly on, instead it’s replaced by pop sensibility found in songs like “The Dream’s In The Ditch” a somber ode to the lows of touring, contrarily sung through pleasant harmonies and lighthearted piano pings.

The record continues on with lyrically and instrumentally dichotomous tracks; “The Rock” starts out a dark lullaby to the end of a romance sung through McCauley’s cigarette strained vocals, and quickly breaks into weak screams and a pounding uphill performance from the band, until it finally moves into a brave, but perfectly placed horn section. “Mr. Sticks” a dedication to McCauley’s recently imprisoned father, is reminiscent of the bittersweet folk-rock of past, with added verbal vulnerability.

The beauty of a Deer Tick record, however, is its ability to feed any mood with its cross-breeding of genres. On “In Our Time” McCauley sings a sweet country parlay with Vanessa Carlton, reminiscent of landmark roots crooners. And Deer Tick must have a sweet spot for the 50s, because “Just Friends” starts out with an instrumental backdrop to an old prom scene, similar to the style used in “Choir of Angels” from The Black Dirt Sessions.

While Negativity is brilliant in its awareness of an evolving musical landscape, and the band’s ability to come clean about their emotional and physical invincibility after years of substance abuse, I can’t help but miss the unapologetic self loathing found in records past with songs like “Dirty Dishes” or “Ashamed”where McCauley sang “I am the boy your mother wanted you to meet / But I am broken and torn with heels at my feet.” Perhaps he’s becoming more of the man our mother’s wanted us to meet, but with so much alternative melancholy blanketing the waves, the nuisance in me is nostalgic for McCauley’s rebel yell.

A great addition to Deer Tick’s gritty catalog, Negativity is a necessary declaration to sober reform and the band’s instrumental and personal progress, but its wisdom shouldn’t discount the beauty in the record’s that brought them here.

 

 

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