Deer Tick: “Mr. Sticks”

This week Song of the Day will be counting down some of our favorite overlooked Studio 1A live sessions from 2013.

Deer Tick is a rock ‘n’ roll band. Now that sentence may seem simple, but that’s only because rock ‘n’ roll ain’t complex. Deer Tick is a rock ‘n’ roll band because they know when to hit it hard, when to dial it back and slow it down without losing any heart or rawness. Deer Tick’s 2011 album Divine Providence was nothing if not a drunken, bar band rave-up at its best (heck, there’s a song called “Let’s All Go to the Bar” complete with a saloon-friendly, sing-along chant). While the follow-up, their latest record, Negativity, is something altogether more reflective. If Divine Providence was Saturday night, Negativity’s Sunday morning.

There’s a naked honesty and sincerity to both records, and the ones that came before. That’s due to Deer Tick’s frontman and  songwriter John McCauley. The Providence, R.I.-born musician has led the band since he started it as a solo project back in ’04. But between his last two records, things had started to take a turn, personally, for McCauley. His father was sentenced to prison for conspiracy and tax fraud and his engagement collapsed under the weight of an increasingly rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle. He channeled these turns to make Negativity, and write lyrics like: “A keeper’s cell, yeah, keep it narrow. Come and see the ugly things that life can bring. I’m out of my skull, my edges though, waiting for a day and a claim to shake.” That line comes from the opening of “Mr. Sticks,” a song that McCauley and Deer Tick guitarist Ian O’Neil performed for a stripped-down, acoustic set in our own Studio 1A. It’s the most rock ‘n’ roll acoustic performance you’ll hear all day.

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