Category Archives: deer tick

My Most Listened to Albums of This Year Are…

1. The National – High Violet
2. Deer Tick – War Elephant
3. Clogs – The Creatures in the Garden Of Lady Walton
4. Galaxie 500 – On Fire
5. Band of Horses – Infinite Arms
6. Phosphorescent – Here’s To Taking It Easy
7. Midlake – The Trials of Van Occupanther
8. Townes Van Zandt – Anthology
9. Horse Feathers – Words Are Dead
10. Real Estate – Real Estate

Okay, this is a pretty strange list. I admit, it’s also pretty inaccurate. It’s aggregated using Last FM and is based on the tracks scrobbled from each album. Thing is, this year I’ve been listening to a hell of a lot of music on Spotify, not to mention on my mp3 player. Honestly though, The National’s new album is undoubtedly the one I’ve listened to the most. If it were to include everything else, I think you’d find some Jo Newsom, Kath Bloom and David Thomas Broughton.

It would be interesting to hear what other people have been listening to the most?

S&B Spotify Playlist: February 2010

From here on in, I’m going to put a playlist on my blog each month which everyone can listen to for free. For this month (and probably next month) it will be on Spotify. After that, I will put it up in the form of mp3s. I am moving to South Korea shortly. They don’t have Spotify there, but they do have 100meg broadband.

It’s not got a lot of new music on it, but stuff I’ve been listening to a lot lately. Some of it, I’m surprised by! For example, since hearing The Winter Of Mixed Drinks a couple of months back, I’ve gone back to listening to Sing The Greys quite a lot. I really like Frightened Rabbit’s new album but don’t necessarily think it’s a logical successor to Midnight Organ Fight. I think there’s as much of their debut set in there as MOF. Anyway, three amazing albums and Music Now is a great track.

Over the past six months I’ve been rifling through Jason Molina’s creative catalogue. I think the guy is a genius. His work as Songs: Ohia is his best and The Electric Magnolia Co is his best album. So understated, effortless and simple. Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy comparisons may have been slightly more apt on, say, Ghost Tropic, but with this album he steps out of that shadow and slips comfortably into his own skin. Funny how I’m only picking up on this seven years after the album’s release.

There are quite a few Scottish acts on there… inevitably I guess. Since leaving Edinburgh I’ve trying my best to keep up with what’s been going on. The Withered Hand album, Good News, from last year is one of the best I’ve heard in a long, long time. I’m sorry I’ve never had a chance to see the guy live. I’m sorry it’s taken me this long to getting around to his debut. Ardentjohn have a new album out which has been received positively, which I’m happy about.

The Drever, McCusker, Woomble album is one I got my hands on last year, but it’s only been this year that I’ve given it sufficient attention. It really is something else. December saw Idlewild’s 100 Broken Windows voted The Skinny’s Scottish Album of the Decade, but it’s amazing how he has diversified himself over the past few years. Before The Ruin is simply gorgeous. Stripped back, rootsy folk songs, beautifully song, lovingly written and played.

The other tracks are gathered from memories, people and places I’ve loved over the past month or two.

Enjoy (those with Spotify!) Scrawls & Bawls Feb 2010

1. Mason Jennings – Memphis, Tennessee
2. Evan Dando – Hard Drive (Live)
3. The Delgados – Is This All That I Came For?
4. Ardentjohn – Where All Paths Lead
5. The Replacements – Unsatisfied
6. Frightened Rabbit – Music Now
7. Songs: Ohia – Just Be Simple
8. Midlake – Rulers, Ruling All Things
9. Townes Van Zandt – Tecumeseh Valley (Live)
10. Deer Tick – Diamond Rings 2007
11. Drever, McCusker, Woomble – All Along The Way
12. Belle and Sebastian – Sleep The Clock Around
13. Withered Hand – Love In The Time Of Ecstasy
14. Drever, McCusker, Woomble – Hope To See
15. Phosphorescent – Wolves
16. Songs: Ohia – Farewell Transmission
17. Sebastien Tellier – La Ritournielle
18. The Chameleons – Second Skin

A Delightful Proposition


I’ve written about Deer Tick here before. They’re a band I’ve loved for a while and when I caught their show in Manchester a couple of months back, they blew me away. In fact, I said as much. The piece was published by Fresh Underground Culture Magazine and the band saw it and they liked it. Or in their own words: “I think it’s the only review of them that we’ve ever LOVED.”

I had an email from the manager Ian last week asking me if they could use the piece as their official bio. I can’t say how happy and honoured I am. It’s tough to get a little bit of recognition in this game, so when it comes as good as this, I feel a bit humbled. The thing is, I didn’t get paid for the piece and it’s not very often that I do. Music journalism is a mug’s game in many respects. The joy of seeing your name in print fades with time. It really is a labour of love, so when the fruits of your labour gain recognition like that, it makes it all seem worthwhile.

I’ll post a link here when it becomes available.

Deer Tick: The Unlikely Saviours of Live Music


Because sometimes, just sometimes, it’s alright to rock out with your cock out…

Written for FUCM

Remember the good ol’ days? You remember, back when Pluto was still a planet? People used to laugh, regularly. They would shout, maybe have a little drinkie and, y’know, enjoy themselves? Oh, nostalgia! And, sometimes, people would go to concerts and shows and they would have what was known as “a good time”. Man, those were the days. Sometimes, even the band would join in. Maybe they’d had a tipple, too. They would play their instruments out of tune and at breakneck speeds. Occasionally, there might be harsh words exchanged… fisticuffs even. But they didn’t give a fuck, and that’s why we loved them, why we wanted to be them and why we wanted to be with them.

Deer Tick

Then something very bad happened. In a heinous, puritanical move designed to destroy rock and roll abandon, a witch hunt ensued. Spearheaded by a MOR music media, the “rock-star stereotype” gradually became a bad thing. The Evian sponsored falling star of flamboyant excess was soundtracked by a lead singer hell-bent on explaining how the agonizing autumnal hues really remind him of his missus slipping off with his best friend last September. Iggy Pop was stripped for parts and sold off to an insurance company and Johnny Rotten was bartered off to the jungle in exchange for his weight in butter. Even Ryan Adams was manhandled onto the wagon for long enough to make a couple of horrible records.

Okay, so I made some of that up. But y’see, until this week, live music had become about as exciting for me as discussing risk with Sting, whilst watching The English Patient. I was getting pretty much fed up of going to gigs and seeing people (not even just the bands) staring at their shoes. Maybe they’d give their toes the odd tap, give a little whistle, before politely applauding the efforts of the entertainment. But overall, the level of charisma had fallen to sub-zero levels. I mean, where had all the cowboys gone? And what the fuck ever happened to chicken wire?

Last week, in the unlikely setting of leafy Mancunian suburbia, I had a stick of dynamite inserted up my arse, courtesy of Rhode Island pseudo-hillbillies Deer Tick. I was blown away. It didn’t take a genius to work out that John McCauley, lead singer, band leader, guitar virtuoso and self-appointed class clown was completely slaughtered. Nor did his Old Glory, blazing guitars adorned, threadbare t-shirt leave us in any kind of doubt as to what we were to expect… he looked like he’d just crawled up the banks of the Mississippi. He announced he’d been drinking vodka all day. We all cheered. He stuck his head in an ice box full of beer. We cheered louder. He announced he was going to take his pants off. And, well, you get the picture.

There are many reasons why Deer Tick are an excellent band. Here are mine. Firstly, they have great songs. War Elephant is a great album. The follow up, Born on Flag Day is just as strong. Alt-country is a curious genre, often misconstrued, misrepresented and misunderstood. Well, for me, this lot here’s a contemporary blueprint. There’s country (duh), punk, blues, folk, grunge and garage rock. Even their choice of cover versions – Replacements, Michael Hurley, John Prine, The Sex Pistols and Chuck Berry – goes a long way to pinning down their sound.

McCauley’s voice is a hybrid of Kurt Cobain and Gary Louris from the Jayhawks. Sometimes he sounds like he’s been gargling gravel with moonshine. He can croon, he can yelp and he can shout. He’s a superb lead singer, backed by a talented, if mostly acquiescent unit. They recently recruited guitarist Ian O’Neil from New Jersey noiseniks Titus Andronicus, which allows McCauley more freedom to noodle, drink more beer, or, um, get his cock out.

They know how to play their songs live. By that, I don’t mean they can robotically churn out high fidelity renditions of their records, which I am pretty sure they can. In the flesh, these guys sound completely different than they do through your speakers. It sounds like a lazy observation to make, but when Deer Tick play live, they sound live. They sound louder, rawer and more raucous than anyone who’s heard their records could’ve thought possible. They improvise, they play requests, they invite people onto the stage, they throw balls to the wall, and it all sticks.

Here is a band awake to the raison d’etre of a live show – to entertain. Sometimes, they (see: McCauley) act like douchebags. They kick each other in the arse when performing an acapella encore. Hell, the drummer even takes off his boots so he can aim a better pot-shot at his singer’s rear. When the audience ask something of them they respond, no matter how ridiculous the demand. One excited, most likely traumatized, reveller barks an order to play some Sex Pistols, in honour of his mother, who died yesterday. It raises a slightly confused smirk from McCauley, who launches into a solo take on Holidays in the Sun, barely an eyelid batted.

When the support act, Megafaun, join Deer Tick on stage for a rollicking cover of Can’t Hardly Wait, McCauley proudly announces he’s going to do it in “true Replacements style”, which as far as I can tell, is shorthand for “sans pants.” Watching him thrash about the stage with his jocks round his ankles is bizarrely refreshing. He looks like he might fall on his face, but it doesn’t stop him from shuffling about, duelling guitars with O’Neil and generally acting the maggot. And this is what I’ve missed about live music. With Deer Tick, there was no self-consciousness, no posturing, no agenda and no bullshit. They didn’t give a fuck, and I loved it.

Maybe it was partly due to the unlikely venue – the overpriced beer, the tasteful artwork, the polished finish on the bar-top – but this disgustingly ramshackle performance took me by surprise, and reminded me that not all live shows turn out to be a damp squib. The histrionic resent I felt when listening to Nirvana Live at Reading on its release a few weeks back has slowly subsided. A bunch of scrawny, drunk kids from Rhode Island have rekindled my appetite for live music. And it didn’t even need the chicken wire. FB

Video: Deer Tick – Diamond Rings 2007 (Live in New York)

http://www.youtube.com/v/-GjWh7tiV4g&hl=en_GB&fs=1&

A New Development


I recently had my first piece published for Fresh Underground Culture Magazine which I am pretty chuffed about. They are a Melbourne based magazine, with global contributors. I will be contributing features and band pieces. The rag is an Australian based eco-political, satirical, free press publication. I will hopefully be making regular contributions. You can view my profile here and the piece in question here. I’ll also stick it on the blog.