If 2012′s Divine Providence was Deer Tick’s last-call bar-romp, Negativity is the Rhode Island quintet’s bleak morning-after. Much more introspective and subdued, Negativity largely ditches the group’s trademark drunken swagger for emotional and musical depth.
Singer John McCauley wrote Negativity in the course of a year in which he suffered a broken engagement and his father’s incarceration for tax fraud, all while alternating between smoking cocaine and trying to clean up. As such, the lyrical content of Negativity is appropriately abject: The quasi-ballad “Mr. Sticks” addresses McCauley’s dad and “The Wall,” “Just Friends” and single “The Dream’s in the Ditch” all depict various broken relationships.
The album is also the most musical in Deer Tick’s nine-year career, as the band employs keys and more melodic guitar lines for a fuller sound. Negativity is also punctuated by horns courtesy of Austin, Texass’ 11-piece Grupo Fantasmo on songs like “Trash” and “The Rock.” The emphasis on technicality and sobriety, unfortunately, take away some of what made Deer Tick special to begin with. They deserve credit for creating another facet of their constantly evolving identity; it’s just a bummer that negativity isn’t as much fun.