Deer Tick and the Brudenell is a perfect match. Both are steeped in the greatest traditions of history and dishevelment. The social club in Hyde Park has stood there for one hundred years, the band from Providence, Rhode Island for considerably less but drink and hard living has taken its toll on both. Yet each is still standing and in the case of Deer Tick’s leader John McCauley who has had his own particular, well documented demons this past couple of years, looking in remarkably rude health.
But despite the apparent catharsis of Deer Tick’s fifth album, last year’s Negativity, McCauley’s marriage last month to singer-songwriter Vanessa Carlton and the stability and security this would seem to have afforded him, this evening’s performance is still as quite wonderfully ragged, uneven and unpredictable as ever.
Deer Tick plot a suitably haphazard journey across the highways and byways of contemporary music, taking in many a truck stop along the way from Nashville to New Jersey. Openers ‘The Rock’ and ‘The Dream’s In The Ditch’ could easily be mistaken for some blue-collar rock music in the best Springsteen tradition, but when they quickly get round to a raucous cover of Buddy Holly’s ‘Oh Boy’, it is rock n roll that is their genre of choice. And by the time that Carlton has joined her husband on stage for the chugging country honk of ‘In My Time’ we suddenly find that we have our very own Johnny and June stood right there before us.
There is even some space for a meandering guitar-driven jam lifted straight out of the Southern Man songbook, a spoof intro of ‘God Rest You Merry Gentlemen’ and a couple of piano-led ballads, linked together by McCauley’s distinctive voice which meets at the intersection between Axl Rose’s full throttled scream and the cracked country croon of John Prine. Yet for all of their chaotic, magnificent versatility and the singular strength of their tunes McCauley suggests at one point that the band are playing music they don’t even like. It is difficult to know whether or not he is being ironic, deliberately self-deprecating or merely presenting us with the truth. Whatever it is though, it is a compelling, essential show, further emphasising what he says to us all a bit later on, “music’s a funny thing, man”.