Rhode Island four-piece Deer Tick have put together something of a miniature ‘Best Of’ compiled from selected songs from their two previous albums (Deer Tick Vol 1 and 2 respectively) but have also included cover versions of songs that inspired the original recordings AND new compositions, so, all in all, a bumper pack of audio offerings.
Deer Tick are a difficult band to classify, apparently they come under the ‘roots rockers’ category, whatever that is, but within the four members of the band are wide spreading influences, I guess the best place to start would be the covers they’ve chosen, Ben Vaughn, George Harrison, Velvet Underground and The Pogues will give you some idea of the flavours on offer. I would throw Tom Petty and some 90’s punk into that cocktail too but even with the differing styles of influence the band works together very well and never does the album feel disjointed.
The band are happy rocking along – ‘White City’ and ‘Hey Yeah!’ (a fantastic bass-driven punky song) – but also show great control on songs like ‘Too Sensitive For This World’ and impressive instrumental ‘Memphis Chair’. One thing I particularly liked was the drumming, there are little rhythmic nuances throughout the album, ‘Spirals’ shows the drummer stepping away from the typical – and expected – drum pattern in favour of something much more interesting, giving the whole piece a slightly skewed perspective, the influence and power that a drummer has over music is sometimes overlooked so it’s refreshing to hear somebody do something different other than keeping the beat. This kind of music lives and dies by the rhythm section, the bass needs to tie the whole sound together and the changes in tone the bass player selects is crucial too, the increased treble on ‘Hey! Yeah!’ is poles away from the double bass sound that bands try to emulate when performing roots music.
Song writer John J McCauley has been described as a “barstool poet” and at times his words put you in the shoes of a fallen man, characters with broken hearts and damaged backstories, the underdog chasing that out-of-reach goal or dream, but then again, doesn’t that describe most of us?
Where this album succeeds is its appeal. Those who already own ‘Vol 1’ and ‘Vol 2’ aren’t getting short changed, the songs that appear on previous albums have been rerecorded so no one feels like they’re being asked to pay for the same thing twice, but this will also appeal to those new to the band, it’s immediately accessible and enjoyable – and, dare I say it, fun to listen to.