You wait for ages for an album from a favourite artist, then, like buses, two come along at once....
Intriguingly, in this case, Deer Tick release Vol 1 & Vol 2 this September, their first new music since 2013’s Negativity. The albums are actually individually released, albeit on the same date, and the only clue from the album artwork is the red framework on volume 1 and the yellow artwork on volume 2. Does the artwork have any bearing on the musical contents ? Both covers depict a renaissance style still life study of fruit and veg, however in the background there are bottles of ketchup and mustard, one with the word deer on the label, and the other with tick. Hmm...
Anyway, on to the music and how it actually sounds. On sliding Vol 1 into the CD player, I braced myself for the rock and roll assault Deer Tick are usually known for, but wait...is that an acoustic guitar introducing the gorgeous opener Sea of Clouds ? It is ! Vocalist and band leader John McCauley’s distinctive vocal style soon kicks in and the dreamlike, and not unlike something from a Midlake album track welcomes us warmly into disc 1. Yes, a surprise, but leaving the disc spinning, it soon becomes apparent this is a folky, acoustic, almost unplugged album of gems. From the REM like, mandolin led Card House, to the harmonica and piano duet of Hope is Big, this is heartfelt, confessional and tender stuff. In all due respect, not something usually associated with Deer Tick.
When asked why the release of new music has taken so long, McCauley explains that they weren’t sure they had anything left to share with their audience. Well, clearly they had a word with themselves and came up with this gorgeous late night collection of songs. This is a lovely collection of tracks that deserve your attention even if this is not what is usually expected from the Rhode Island unit.
Volume 2 is back to familiar territory with it being a full on rock and roll album, starting off with the crunching chord assault of the electric guitar that begins Don’t Hurt. It’s a Whale is urgent and shouty garage rock, and Look How Clean I Am seems to suggest the authors abstinence from the perils of an excessive rock and roll lifestyle.
The band have 1 further left turn to take, with the rather lovely, jazzy instrumental called Pulse, before closing the album more traditionally with the epic and surely future live favourite Mr Nothing Gets Worse.
Deer Tick continue to release the kind of rock and roll that is not heard so much nowadays, with heart and soul in everything they do. I guess closest comparisons include Drive By Truckers, Black Stone Cherry and even the Boss himself. Deer Tick deserve your attention, and deserve to be more widely revered. These 2 releases can but help.