A Broken Record: Deer Tick Negativity reviewed
The opening track off Negativity, the fifth studio album for Providence alt punk rockers Deer Tick, is a song about lead singer John McCauley III's broken off engagement, as the whole of Negativity ultimately is. The title "The Rock" is simultaneously a slang term for an engagement ring and a metaphor for the blunt object that was the relationship's eventual undoing.
As is always the case, McCauley states things far less subtly than I do:
McCauley's sentiments on marriage here, which are certainly shaded by his engagement's unraveling, remind me of my favorite line from Mike Birbiglia's Sleep Walk With Me:
"I'm not going to get married until I'm sure that nothing else good can happen in my life."
That is sadly, the highest compliment I can give Negativity.
Before we go any further I just want to say that I'm a Deer Tick fan. I liked them from the moment I read their Myspace headline:
"Don't Step In Any Shit, I Want to Suck Your Toes Later"
I loved War Elephant and consistently liked 3-4 songs off the next few records. Divine Providence in particular probaby deserved a few more spins than I gave it.
And "Ashamed" will always be my jam.
Ditto "Art Isn't Real."
I just like to get all that on the record lest the rest of this read like a hit piece.
By most any objective measure, Negativity is a bad album. It's redundant, stale, and just about every other prejorative adjective you could throw at it. Spare "The Rock" and maybe "The Dream's In the Ditch," this is a shit sandwich.
Particularly "Just Friends," a song McCauley wrote about seeing his ex-fiancé at a bar one night. This song plays like a bad South Park song, only without the humor and self-awareness.
Or maybe I'm just having a bad September.
The rest of Negativity is more of the same. A hackneyed, extended meditation on the band's sole motif: I'm a drunk asshole.
I suspect Deer Tick don't really care what critics, least of all someone like me, think about their work. I'd also guess that this was more catharsis than an artistic statement for McCauley. He seems to regress on Negativity as a lyricist. For every step forward there's a few dozen back. One hopes on future endeavors he sticks to vague generalities (see "Spend The Night," every good Deer Tick song save for "Twenty Miles"), as opposed to his personal musings on existential anguish.
For the band, fans, and especially McCauley it's best to heed the advice given to anyone coming off romantic tragedy:
Just move on from it.