A Positive Performance
Though it may not have looked like it at SXSW, John McCauley is in relative crisis. It’s the kind that makes you write sweeping, haunting ballads of the parallel realities where McCauley’s ex isn’t opening for his curated showcase but singing alongside the Deer Tick frontman. Nicki Darlin and the rest of Those Darlins delivered a commanding performance before McCauley took the stage with a barrage of special guests during the Red Bull Sound Select. McCauley, of course, found himself onstage with the rest of Deer Tick. The early spring jam session was hardly indicative of their next album, however.
Chalk it up to a bit of writer’s block around Darlin and McCauley’s split or some much-needed time to process it all, but Negativity is teeming with the unspoken hurt McCauley and co. once shrouded in hard-partying, almost outlaw country ways. The live-and-let-live swagger is muted, yet still tinges all twelve tracks of their fifth LP, most noticeably on “Mirror Walls,” its scales and cadenzas spilling over tender vocals and distant, churning drums. McCauley is not without additional heartaches, his bandmates included. Personal experience makes for killer music despite the additional issues, including battles with drugs and family conflict.
The latter half of the album carries on with the haunting trajectory of minor keys and breakdowns on the verge of collapse, only slightly augmented by a surprise collaboration with Vanessa Carlton on the almost radio-friendly “In Our Time.” This may not be the album you were expecting from a band who once equated themselves with A-bombs and cocaine on the aptly titled “The Bump.” Deer Tick have grown as a band and individuals, sharpening their skill sets and honing their craft in the name of turmoil. If only every creative individual could channel such energy into such a positive force.