Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Deer Tick

  • War Elephant [Feow!, 2007] Dud
  • Born on Flag Day [Partisan, 2009] A-
  • War Elephant [Partisan, 2009] **
  • The Black Dirt Sessions [Partisan, 2010] *
  • Divine Providence [Partisan, 2011] A-
  • Vol. 2 [Partisan, 2017] A-

Consumer Guide Reviews:

War Elephant [Feow!, 2007] Dud

Born on Flag Day [Partisan, 2009]
Intensified by 24-year-old Rhode Islander John McCauley's old-as-the-hills croak and bodied up by a couple years playing out, the band sound grabs you--these are the rare young men who not only admire roots music but know it carnally. The source of the attraction does arouse suspicion--no songwriter should claim that "not a single word speaks for my rambling around." But the likes of "Little White Lies" (lost love as spirit death), "Straight Into a Storm" (found love as rock and roll life), and "Song About a Man" (grandpa) translate perfectly into their long-diddled dialect. A-

War Elephant [Partisan, 2009]
Searching for truth among the believers ("These Old Shoes," "Not So Dense"). **

The Black Dirt Sessions [Partisan, 2010]
John Joseph McCauley III and friends feel the red dirt Other's pain without quite making it their own ("Mange," "Christ Jesus"). *

Divine Providence [Partisan, 2011]
Divided 50-50 fast ones-slow ones, this doesn't rock as unreservedly as the bar-burning "The Bump," "Something to Brag About," and "Let's All Go to the Bar" want you to think. But it's sure the right course correction for guys who've always fetishized the eternal old-timey more than any band from goddamn Providence should. There's release along the lines of "I don't care if you puke in my ride/Let's all go to the bar/Baby just as long as you take your piss outside/Let's all go to the bar." And on drummer Dennis Ryan's "Clownin' Around" there's an equally satisfying release from heroin, the closet, child abuse, or some combination of the three--maybe prison, maybe death, maybe hell. A-

Vol. 2 [Partisan, 2017]
Unlike 2013's simultaneously out-of-its-skull and pop-curious Negativity (try: "Hey Doll," "In Our Time") or 2017's simultaneously depressive and folk-leaning Vol. 1 (try: "Sea of Clouds," "Rejection"), this is the kind of garage Americana that's John McCauley's modest gift to the world: half an hour's worth of noisy, catchy, rootsy songs about fucking up, self-doubt, provisional camaraderie, rowdy abandon, and, most important, good times that haven't ended yet (but still might). The classic is "S.M.F.," which stands for Shitty Music Festival. May they end their Bonnaroo set with it. A-