By Dominic Allen
October 01, 2013
Deer Tick were a band that I first became aware of due to the mod-father, Paul Weller, being in high praise of them. After listening to their Black Dirt Sessions I wasn’t convinced – mainly due to problems with singer John MacAuley, who appeared to suffer from a whiny voice. This made listening to the album a bit trying, although the music – while at times by-numbers alt-country – more than compensated for that. Additionally, I saw them at a festival where the electricity went out half-way through their set, and that seemed to sum them up for me. Thankfully, over the last two albums MacAuley’s voice has matured, becoming harsher and more appealing than before. This has greatly assisted in making their new album Negativity a more intriguing, less straightforward listen than earlier ones.
Deer Tick’s music generally ticks along rather nicely in a broadly Americana universe, but tends to be more Crazy Horse than Neil Young. On this album the rougher musical edges that were present on the previous two albums Black Dirt Sessions and Divine Providence are largely missing here. In doing so it reminds this reviewer of the transition of Wilco from being an alt-country act a la A.M. to a less predictable indie outfit in the realm of their Yankee Foxtrot Hotel album. Not that such a marked transition has come into force; just that there’s a move away from the ragged country-blues into something more subtle. An increased use of string arrangements has further diluted the ‘Tonight’s the Night’ burn-out that had been a prominent feature encouraging them in an, at times, jazzier direction. With that in mind, the stand out tracks on this album are ‘The Rock’, ‘Mirror Walls’ and ‘Big House’, though none of the songs required a fast-forwarding.
Overall, I cannot fault this album, and on Negativity Deer Tick are showing a continued evolution in broadening their musical scope. Essentially, this is a group that has started to evolve and expand their sound, shifting from a sometimes predictable Americana to producing a less obvious collection of songs. That said, this album’s not a watershed moment for them whereby they’ve cast off their humble beginnings to become global megastars. Rather, there’s an expansion of their sound that does not detract from their previous appeal.