Two is Better Than One: Deer Tick give fans a double-feature with their newest release
On the 10-year anniversary of Deer Tick’s debut album War Elephant, the world is gifted with not one, but two full length albums from the band. Deer Tick Vol. I sticks to a melodic, stripped down sound, while in Deer Tick Vol. II, John McCauley finds the amp and doesn’t look back. The genre bending quartet out of Providence, known for their party animal tendencies and disdain for twang, has matured over the past decade—with their latest arrival serving as the perfect showcase for McCauley’s refreshingly introspective musings.
On the cover of both albums is what appears at first glance to be a classical still life painting, with the addition of two iconic condiments—ketchup and mustard—a cheeky nod to the albums themselves, successful on their own although they complement each other beautifully.
Although organized by style, the tracks on both albums have commonalities in their lyrical content. A lot has happened in the three years since Deer Tick last released material; for example, frontman John McCauley got married and became a father. The carefree rocker vibe so heavily present in their earlier work is thus unsurprisingly reined in, as important life events have a way of altering one’s perspective. Deer Tick Vol. I & II explores sobriety, uncertainty, and how our decisions affect our relationships. It’s the kind of contemplative, raw prose that can only be dredged from troubled times viewed with hindsight. “Cocktail” an acoustic number buoyed by bright piano riffs, hears McCauley recall with bittersweet yearning, “I started missing the days, where as soon as I’d wake, I’d make a cocktail.” The rest of the song touches on the pros and cons of the emotional numbness that often accompanies alcohol dependency.
The melancholy “Sea of Clouds” contains the line, “As we get older now I cannot help but think we’ve all just settled for a lie.” McCauley seems to be speaking to a close friend as he reminisces on the wasted potential of younger years. Drummer Dennis Ryan lends his vocals to the light-hearted, “Me and My Man,” a toe-tapping ode to bromance. “Pulse,” titled in remembrance of the shooting that occurred at the Orlando nightclub of the same name, is the only instrumental track on either album. The saxophone mournfully rising above the fuzzed-out reverb cuts deeply into the heart, and is a highlight of Vol. 2.
Deploying twenty songs at once may seem a little ambitious, but the tracks have enough range and inventiveness so as not to burn out listeners. That being said, it’s perfectly understandable to take your time going through the material. Deer Tick is giving their audience a depth and complexity that demands a little more than past tunes you would play in the background of a party. Fortunately for all of us, McCauley and the gang manage to grow up without growing old, leaving the best years still to come.