Deer Tick

Vol. 1 – 2017 (Partisan)

Reviewed by Brian Baker

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CDs by Deer Tick

John McCauley's earliest explorations as Deer Tick found him with one foot firmly planted in his punk rock past and the other in his newly minted conversion to folk and country by way of an introduction to Hank Williams. His dual personalities were separated into his studio Jekyll and his stage Hyde, the former using the solemnity of recording to craft quiet folk gems, the latter presenting them to an audience with adrenalized, amps-to-11 abandon. It wasn't until 2011's "Divine Providence" that McCauley decided to fold his two distinct sides into a sonic singularity, an experiment that yielded uneven, but captivating results.

McCauley shook up his process by letting keyboards take the spotlight on 2013's "Negativity," which was followed by his marriage to Vanessa Carlton, fatherhood and the temporary shuttering of Deer Tick. The band eventually reunited for the Newport Folk Festival and their infamous after-party hoedowns, and their creative fuses were effectively lit. Booking time at Memphis' iconic Ardent Studios, Deer Tick immediately returned to their twin sonic pursuits, hushed and heartfelt unplugged folk and fully wired, blistering rock, all nestled safely under the umbrella of McCauley's lyrical intelligence and reflection, and the full band's zeal for music's past and present.

McCauley ultimately determined that Deer Tick's two distinct aspects should be presented as separate entities, and split the results of the sessions into the acoustic quietude of "Vol. 1" and the electric clamor of "Vol. 2." The first volume trembles with contemplative power, from the aching beauty of "Sea of Clouds" to the sparkling majesty of "Limp Right Back" to the Dylan-tinted "Hope is Big."

On the other end of the spectrum, "Vol. 2" rages and roars with anthemic delight, particularly on the punk-rooted "It's a Whale," the Boss-soaked "Don't Hurt" and the Heartbreakers-toasted "Look How Clean I Am." The band's current tour addresses their old schizophonic issues by presenting the quiet material in an opening acoustic set and the fist-pumping stompers in a subsequent electric set, but don't walk out like an outraged 1965 Dylan fan after the folk portion; stay and experience the full range of Deer Tick's ragged glory.