Whether Deer Tick are really a band or still just the supersized lone project of John McCauley, it seems like he's turned over a new leaf, and gosh darn it if it isn't mighty dark underneath. It's five years on from the release of the much admired indie/folkie/country strains of War Hunter - a first proper DT release after McCauley had previously produced a clutch of material self-released on CD-R - and the (Book) worm has most definitely turned. Opener The Bump takes the singer's wonderfully scratchy pipes and twins them with a stomping garage riff and strutting honky tonk piano, the effect something like doing karaoke with a random drunk in a back street liquor den. Taking the Shane McGowan scorched earth approach to a night out, the refrain goes 'We're four grown men, but we act like kids, we'll face the music, next time we roll in'. I mean, we've all been there, haven't we?
Unrepentant, Let's All Go The Bar is even more direct and to the point, JoeyDeeDeeandJohnny as if they'd been brought up in Providence, Rhode Island as opposed to Queens, even starting up with a 1-2-3-4 count in and along the way reminding everyone that hedonism always sounds better than sobriety. It's a breakneck start that's heading for the mother of all hangovers and, when it kicks in the tempo, slows accordingly. Not for dodgy tummies, Clownin' Around is musically more representative of the War Hunter era, almost despite being a song about card carrying Democrat and serial killer of teenage boys, John Wayne Gacy.
Having previously been likened to alt. country lions Wilco, being a little less fey than the Fleet Foxes and Bon Ivers of Americana's current generation, Divine Providence finds McCauley clearly bored with the straitjacketed contrivances of being check shirted and living with a broken heart. At a stretch, Chevy Express groans with odd distortion that echoes Beck at his most esoteric; Make Believe relies on the bluesy short arm chops and wheezy hammond so beloved by our own over the ponders The Coral. There is one more episode of pissed up belligerence in the wind milling Something To Brag About, but the anti-Nashville stylings of Now It's Your Turn are gloriously too loud, too gauche and too wilfully imprecise to be anything more than affectionate sludge.
Maybe it's all irony designed to work at a dozen Noo-York blogger levels, punk and diamante John Deere earrings designed to mock and celebrate - stuff that laughs at you AND with you. Then along comes closer Miss K, a love song of kind, on which McCauley tells his damsel in excess to 'Talk Dirty/Turn me on/Let's get going', presumably before showing her his Loretta Lynn poster with a moustache coloured in felt tip pen on her top lip. There's no respect any more. But we say any artist who can piss on your shoes whilst giving you a hug is alright by us. One for the road?
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