Deer Tick has built a name for themselves by not only pumping out killer tunes, but by pulling out the stops. Just two years removed from the rollicking Divine Providence, the band returns with a clear-eyed, emotionally-charged record, Negativity.
As on Divine Providence, the band benefits from letting Ian O’Neil take a turn behind the mic. His “The Dream’s in the Ditch” is the album’s catchiest tune. Drummer Dennis Michael Ryan’s “Thyme” also acquits itself well.
But ultimately, this is lead singer John McCauley’s show. He addresses his dissolved engagement on album opener “The Rock”, and his father’s prison sentence for tax evasion (“Mr. Sticks”). The result is some of the band’s most autobiographical and affecting tunes to date. His sandpaper croak is still rough, but it’s more pointed than ever; his bloodshot eyes are wide here with a keen clarity, thanks in no small part to shirking at least some of the substances.
McCauley has always had a voice that sounds like he’s seen some hard times. Now he’s got some hard times to sing about.