No, Negativity is not the same raucous, beer-swigging romp that defined Divine Providence and seldom heralds the growl of John McCauley as a defining attribute of the band. Instead, Negativity goes further in smoothing out the quieter and sensible singer that the EP Tim kicked out afterward.
In comparison to its predecessors, this album will feel immediately less spirited and sprawling. In its place, McCauley and company have found a bright patch of creativity that expands upon the band's legendary diversity. There is a clarity here that feels like that momentary crispness somewhere between the the hangover from the night before and the next night's party.
Negativity adds a bright and shiny spot of clarity to Deer Tick.
From the very first track, The Rock, Deer Tick tries on a taut and sometimes tentative sound, almost as if the band is trying to play make up for what it did the night before. There is purposefulness in not sounding as confident even if the entire album demonstrates more self-control.
Even the lyrics inside The Rock are all about self-reflection and depreciation, like someone who pushed someone else away during their glory years only to regret it later. It's a great song in that it reveals a need but suggests that need be denied. From his tally, he ain't all that worthy.
At the same time, McCauley continues to exude the spontaneity that has directed most of his life. He writes, composes and plays the way he thinks it will feel right. As the band approaches their decade mark next year, Negativity plays out with a darkly curious melodic tone like a mid-life crisis laced with more hope than confidence because the really bad stuff might finally be behind them.
When McCauley wrote the album last year, that wasn't necessarily the case. On one hand, the singer-songwriter was everywhere. On the other, his engagement to Nikki Darlin was on the rocks. His father was sent to prison for tax fraud. The album, like the title suggests, is a take on negativity.
What is that exactly? Deer Tick doesn't approach negativity with the same depressing cadence that some bands do. They attempt to admit things suck, but that things can suck with a little pop and accessibility. Even so, some songs sound sad nonetheless, like Big House.
The acoustical sounds even richer on the album, but neither rendition captures the band's reputation for writing relevant songs. There are several lines that stand out, but an easy favorite leads "every morning when you mean to keep your hands clean but it's running down your arms casting shadows on your heart."
It's so much easier to want to be good than it is be good. Other standouts on the album include the more robust The Curtain, the upbeat permission-to-fail pop in The Dream's In The Ditch, and the tightly controlled restraint in Mirror Walls all showcase the insatiable talent of a band that has grown up in Newport and Providence, Rhode Island. Meanwhile, Pot Of Gold, Hey Doll, and In Our Town (with Vanessa Carlton) tap into the charm of Deer Tick's ability to be novel across country, folk pop and rock.
Negativity By Deer Tick Drifts Along At 8.6 On The Liquid Hip Richter Scale.
All in all, this isn't a Deer Tick anyone ought to expect. Sure, McCauley, Rob Crowell, Ian O'Neil, Christopher Ryan, and Dennis Ryan are all accounted for and familiar, but they've just produced an album one-off from anything they put out before. If it were any other band, very little would seem like it fits. Somehow, however, Deer Tick has made a career of fitting things that don't fit together.
Negativity By Deer Tick is available from iTunes. You can also find Negativity on Amazon or purchase the vinyl at Barnes & Noble. The band has a slew of shows booked in October and November. They have one of the best live shows around. You can find them all listed on Facebook.