Friday, March 2, 2012

Deer Tick Kicks Back With The EP Tim

With Divine Providence still having plenty of shelf life as a rollicking good time, it almost came as a surprise that Deer Tick would wait only a few months before putting out more material, especially with singer John McCauley's collaborative schedule (upcoming releases from Diamond Rugs and These United States; films Sweet Little Lies and Color Me Obsessed). But they did.

A 4-track EP plus one acoustic cut of Main Street, Tim provides yet another take on the Rhode Island alternative folk rockers. This time out, Deer Tick mostly slows the pace to a psychedelic and sometimes bluesy folk groove. 

It's not the only contrast to the experimental full-length album. McCauley has never sounded more relaxed or maybe tired, even in parts where you would expect to hear him growl, scream or shout. 

Deer Tick's Tim is the needed B-side to Divine Providence. 

The new tracks on Tim would have made for an amazing mix-in on Divine Providence, balancing out the mostly barroom jam session that was meant to capture the spirit of their live performances. It would have added depth to the album, giving it a disruption in between party songs. 

But instead, Tim might not see as much life as a standalone, even if every flipping song is well-written and superbly produced, with one exception. The material doesn't showcase McCauley's ability to own the songs because his voice drops back into the instrumental instead of commanding it. 

The most upbeat of the tracks is the opener Born At Zero. The songwriting is as poignant as ever, darkly funny. You're born at zero and dead at 23, ain't it fucking cool how the dirt comes free. Born At Zero also comes closest to vintage Deer Tick, and it's the best track on the album. 

On the opposite end is the acoustic version of Main Street that some reviewers have been dismissing as a possible throwaway. They might think differently if they knew what makes the recording stand out. It's the first time McCauley played the song after writing it. Something like this, but better.

Between the bookends are Walls, Virginia Gal, and She's Not Spanish. Walls is a stretched out drawn down brooder that maintains a restrained pace. Virginia Gal is a song about a vinegar girlfriend. And She's Not Spanish opens with violins before melding with a Sixties rock melody (Beatlesque even) with a meandering folk rock ballad. 

All together, the EP is remarkably tame and almost feels like a pendulum swing in the opposite direction for Deer Tick. In some ways, it shows how these songs really did deserve their own platform. And yet, had they replaced a couple off of Divine Providence, the album might have been loved all the more. 

While The Black Dirt Sessions is still the best introduction to McCauley, Ian O'Neil (guitar), Dennis Ryan (drums), Rob Crowell (keys, sax), and Chris Ryan (bassist), Tim is a must-have for any Deer Tick fan in entirety. The band, on stage or off, takes music as seriously as they play it, which means they take it seriously, but only if it doesn't have to sound like they take it seriously. 

Tim By Deer Tick Knocks Down 8.2 On The Liquid Hip Richter Scale. 

Deer Tick has come a long way since its earliest beginnings in 2005. A few people have commented that they miss the old Deer Tick, harkening back before the indie band that could really did. I disagree. While listening to Tim alone conveys a mostly different pace than what they actually play, it sounds especially sharp when you mix it all in, much like you would expect to hear in concert.

Tim by Deer Tick is available at iTunes. The release is digital only. However, Partisan Records has announced that it will be available as a 10" vinyl when the band tours in 2012. The EP was recorded during the Divine Providence sessions.
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