It seems that Deer Tick's albums are like buses: you wait four years for one and two come along at once. The Rhode Island band have taken to releasing their next body of work in two parts, but make no mistake this is not the same album split across two because they couldn't fit all the tracks on one. Deer Tick Vol 1 and 2 share commonalities but they are two separate albums with different styles and personalities.
Vol 1 is acoustically driven indie folk, beginning with Sea of Clouds the track could easily be an outtake from Mumford & Sons or Newton Faulkner. The band are have been rooted in Americana with previous albums like Born On Flag Day but aim to move outside the realms of their other work on these albums. John McCauley may steer clear of a country accent on much of the bands material but almost relishes in the Bob Dylan lazy drawl that soars above the track. Card House begins to play with rhythmic styles as well as incorporating roots instruments like mandolin alongside a saxophone that would feel out of place if the structures of the track had not been set up for such amalgamation: it's a trendy folk fusion and delivered in DT's bittersweet style – this, after all, is the band who wrote a song from the perspective of clown killer John Wayne Gacy.
Introspection features a lot in DT's work, with wide eyed optimism being tainted by the skepticism of life, even the lighter moments are tainted with acerbity. Only Love has a dreamy outlook of your average bildungsroman credit closer, but is delivered with inevitable sadness 'it's only love, it will let you down...but not today.' Cocktail is part country song, part slow tango, part late night bar jazz with Dennis Ryan's brush strokes and guitarist Ian O’Neil bringing together the fusion with impeccable timing and feel. Blissful bonhomie runs through the Me and My Man and breaks up the ethereal melodies and bitter punctuation with a more hopeful feel. As the album draws to a close, there's a darker, grungier feel, linking the tone of the two albums.
If you're listening back to back (and that's probably ideal to get the best from both) the opening overture of Don't Hurt jars you from your somnambulist state and into a more punky feel. For the most part it stays fairly conventional in its musical structures, but tracks like Look How Clean I Am shakes things up with the quirky outlook of other bands like Deen Ween. It's A Whale and Sloppy pack in more of a frenzied scuzzy sound while S.M.F and Mr Nothing Gets Worse feel like good old 70s garage rock and roll. Pulse seems a little out of place or at the very least out of track order with its laboured one, two drum pattern that gradually builds into a soft shuffle. It may seem out of step with the rest of the album, but it shows the bands ability to swap styles and not fit into any musical mould.
Deer Tick has managed to create two very different as listenable albums that stand on their own merits, but also work as a yin and yang or musical Jekyll and Hyde demonstrating their abilities and refusal to be earmarked in one genre.
Vol 1 4/5
Vol 2 4/5