Deer Tick's acoustic/electric "Vol. 1" and "Vol. 2" were not only personal triumphs and career highlights for frontman/songwriter John J. McCauley, they were also among the best releases of 2017. Given the emotional and physical investment involved with the dual albums, representing the band's distinct folk and rock sonic profiles, McCauley and his merry band of Americana cranksters would be justified in presenting "Mayonnaise" as what it appears to be at first glance; a compilation of leftover tracks that serves as a low impact placeholder while the band works on new material. Here's the thing: McCauley and Deer Tick don't drive that slow.
While "Mayonnaise" is indeed a compilation of orphanesque songs, most were recorded specifically for this album, which McCauley has identified as a companion piece to "Vol. 1" and "Vol. 2." As the title might indicate, the album is more condiment than meal, with four of the tracks being alternate takes from "Vol. 1," combined with four covers and five brand new songs written for this release. The alternate takes are slight returns, although "Limp Right Back" feels a bit jazzier, and "Cocktail" replaces the piano melody lines with pedal steel provided by Steelism's Spencer Cullum. The covers are all effective readings of the originals, with the band's blistering version of The Pogues' "White City" causing the biggest commotion and Ben Vaughn's "Too Sensitive For This World" appropriately shivery.
Predictably, the Deer Tick originals shine brightest. "Bluesboy" sounds like a Kurt Cobain fleshed out demo for a blues-tinged grunge experiment, "Old Lady" and "Strange, Awful Feeling" offer the band's folk heart at a rock intensity, "Hey! Yeah!" steams along with Steve Earle's twangy jaunt and "Memphis Chair" is a lovely piano-and-sax palate-cleanser toward album's end. This might not be the place to dip your toe if you're new to Deer Tick, but if you're already a fan of the band's deliberate imperfection, "Mayonnaise" will satisfy until their next original full length comes along.