Deer Tick naming their album Negativity is an idea so obvious most bands would have immediately discarded it. It’s like if Jane’s Addiction called an album AnDRUGynous, Led Zeppelin called an album Libido, or Alice in Chains called an album Negativity. But Deer Tick are not most bands. They’ve never been known to play it coy. I mean, they already got away with “Let’s All Go to the Bar.” This is just par for the course. It’s not the total bummer it sounds like either.
Negativity opens with the mini-epic, “The Rock.” While it is a little dark, the production makes it sound humongous. This is what would’ve happened if Phil Spector was less interested in bubblegum and more interested in, I don’t know, licorice? “The Dream’s In the Ditch” receives a similar treatment. This song could have been recorded by Bruce Springsteen and it probably would’ve received pretty good airplay if he had. This is the weird thing about the album. It exists in a sort of hinterlands between modern and classic rock. I don’t necessarily consider this a problem, but it does make it hard for it to find its place. Deer Tick sounds great doing rootsy rock, which is why they are often labeled alt-country, but often they’re a little too “alt” for the people who would eat up “The Dream’s in the Ditch.” “Pot of Gold” for instance rocks hard, well, at least as hard as Pearl Jam. “Thyme” is a strange, trippy, psych kind of song that could definitely alienate some people despite being a good song. Elsewhere there’s a handful of mature ballads such as “Just Friends” and the bluesy “Trash” that are pretty beautiful, but sound like music for moms. None of this bothers me. I think its a really good album and I think their fan base will agree. They won’t lose fans on account of this record, but it probably won’t be their mainstream breakthrough either.