the deer tick dilemma
  • THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 05, 2009

  • Posted by:


This past summer, Providence-based quartet Deer Tick released their sophomore album, Born on Flag Day, and ever since I haven't been able to make up my mind about this whole vintage rock n roll country vibe they've got going on. They've been picking up a lot of press on blogs recently, playing at CMJ/touring, and making all around waves, but I still can't help feeling torn. My issue with any band that is too invested in a throw back sound is that there is a difference between channeling an aesthetic of the past and blatantly playing dress up. On one hand, I respect they've got their own fetishized blue collar hipster thing going: they like hard whiskey, railcars, confederate flags, shot guns, David Crosby informed facial hair, and why shouldn't they? That shit is cool. Not to mention, I dig front man John McCuley's strained whine.

But the band's music sometimes lacks the personal authenticity that gives their stronger songs like "Art isn't Real (City of Sin)" more of an identity, and they do have their moments. In fact, "Ashamed", off their first album War Elephant is a really beautiful mid-tempo ballad that boasts a running melody, weaving lyrical gymnastics, and enticing sincerity. Then, just when I feel converted, I listen to a song like "Straight into a Storm" and it sounds like a late seventies cover of a Chuck Berry b-side.

I think this indiscretion can be explained by the fact that Deer Tick has been through somewhere in the ballpark of ten reincarnations in the last four years, always with McCauley at the helm. Maybe what we have here is a Lennon-Mccartney, situation in reverse, maybe McCauley is just looking for his Garfunkel to iron out some of that Hank Williams drag and give him a new edge. So for now I'm on their side, I'm a sucker for a good old finger picking rock song, even if that's all there is, it's not a bad place to start. -amelia trask

On a side note, if you want to see the visual definition of "generation gap", watch Deer Tick's excruciating interview on Britunes. Yes Britunes, Brian Williams' swing at "indie music" reporting. From private jet planes to super stardom dividing the band, Deer Tick might sound like the seventies but they ain't Led Zepplin (with special plugs/thanks to Apple Bees, iTunes, YouTube, and Rolling Stone).

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MP3: Deer Tick - "Easy" - from Born on Flag Day
Deer Tick on Myspace

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