Deer Tick - Deer Tick Vol. 1 & Vol. 2 (Partisan Records)

Ambitious double set from Rhode Island Americana troupe is a winner

Released Sep 15th, 2017 via Partisan / By Richard Lewis
Deer Tick - Deer Tick Vol. 1 & Vol. 2 (Partisan Records) The two albums on one day approach is a tricky one to pull off successfully. Bruce Springsteen came unstuck with Lucky Town/Human Touch in 1992 while Guns N’ Roses proved the doubters wrong with enormo-proportioned double release Use Your Illusion I & II the previous year. Like the Gunners’ Illusion sets which featured the same artwork in a different context, the covers for Rhode Island stalwarts Deer Tick new releases Vol.1 and 2 are identical aside from the crimson border around the first and gold around the second.

Backing up the release of the LP with an explanatory note, the troupe’s mainman, singer-songwriter John J. McCauley stated ‘This is not a double album. These are two separate records released on the same day. Vol 1 is an acoustic record, Vol 2 is a rock record’. While the approach usually leads to accusations that fans are being jibbed by paying for two album not one, and some of the fat from the collections could have been trimmed and the material crammed on to a single disc, here both sets are strong enough to stand on their own. The first Volume’s rustic Americana is steeped in harmonies, tumbling arpeggios and easy-going tempos , while the second rock/punk influenced disc taps into a seam of blue collar rock explored by the aforementioned Springsteen, The Replacements and their descendants, Nirvana.

Providing an update of the harmony rich material created by The Band and CSNY, Vol 1 calls to mind fellow blue chip Americana practitioners IRS-era R.E.M. in places plus Calexico with its diversion into bossa nova on Card House. Like Robbie Robertson & Co. the present group are easily able to switch vocals, with sticksman Dennis Ryan taking the lead on Me & My Man, backed with Al Kooper-style organ, while Cocktail aptly sounds like a fellow luminary from The Last Waltz, Van Morrison. Adept at working in just about any tempo, the slow-paced waltz of Hope is Big is a dead ringer for Harvest era Neil Young, joined by Crosby, Stills & Nash for the choruses.

Beautifully played throughout, Limp Right Back especially is gorgeously understated with the clouds gathering midway through before re-emerging in the sunlight with a Clarence Clemons-style sax solo. Elsewhere the recurring guitar figure that powers Rejection is similar to the hypnotic tricks Kurt Vile is able to create so effortlessly, giving Vol 1 the edge in quality out of the pair.

Trading in the lilting pianos and brushed percussion, Don’t Hurt and Jumpstarting fire up the opening stretch of Vol. 2 evoking the street punk Springsteen of Darkness On the Edge of Town. Look How Clean I Am recalls the down-in-their-cups lyricism of alt. rock progenitors The Replacements, and shares the ‘Mats self-deprecating wit ‘You’re swimming in sobriety/I guess I missed the boat’, while the self-explanatory Sloppy has the same wayward battering ram energy of the Pixies.

Revving up lead single It’s A Whale, built around a sidewinding riff that twists and turns like Mr. Moustache from Nirvana’s Bleach has a Cobain-esque throat-shredding vocal to match it. Tiny Fortunes is imbued with the ‘Thin Wild Mercury Sound’ of Blonde On Blonde, while instrumental Pulse is a slightly missed opportunity, sounding well-suited to vocals. Concluding the affair with a heads down no nonsense boogie, the unhinged Mr. Nothing Gets Worse sprints along like a half-cut garage band as the group trade verses between them.

A bumper set that crams a long list of Americana ingredients into a casserole dish that simmers away splendidly, Deer Tick have ensured that the two-albums-in-one-go scheme has a winning new addition in the plus column.