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Deer Tick

Negativity – 2013 (Partisan)

Reviewed by Henry L. Carrigan Jr.

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CDs by Deer Tick

On their fifth album, Deer Tick, the Providence, R.I. band Deer Tick that got its start in 2004, once again demonstrates its tremendous musical range and canny songwriting in a set of tunes that explores absence in its many forms - the loss that comes with a breakup (Just Friends, and most songs), the loss of a parent to the prison system (Mr. Sticks) and the blankness of facing a world emptied of any meaning (Big House).

The album's opening track, The Rock opens with a ghostly, echoing vibe reminiscent of Bloodrock's DOA, but swings quickly into an energetic and propulsive horn-driven, Ides of March-meets-Dick Dale and Sixties soul, breakup song that cleverly captures the ambivalence the singer feels about desire and loss and the sweet relief, in spite of the deep pain, of that loss.

On Trash, composer John McCauley's adieu to some of the things he's loved, like alcohol ("Don't dig the drink/dry out in style/and waste all my ink/I'm checking out past noon") guitarist Ian Patrick O'Neil's soulful lead guitar channels not only the early Duane Allman of the Hour Glass, but also Eric Clapton's tasty blues licks from songs like Key to the Highway. Vanessa Carlton joins McCauley on the kick-out-the-country jams of In Our Time with its circus steam calliope rhythm and its lament for loss and celebration of new possibility. The sad ballad Just Friends opens with riff reminiscent of Bruce Hornsby's Mandolin Rain, but if you close your eyes, you'll think you're hearing Meatloaf crooning Two Out of Three Ain't Bad. The regretful but not sorry for leaving Hey Doll resembles The Beatles Dear Prudence, and Deer Tick takes a page from Black Sabbath on the defiant Pot of Gold.

Their shrewd way with lyrics and their inspired way of weaving music around the writing showcase Deer Tick's vibrant, dynamic and eclectic style on this album of compulsively listenable songs.