Letting it all hang out.
Deer Tick make messes like it's nobody's business. Browse a recent set list and you'll find autobiographical songs with titles like "Trash" and "The Dream's in the Ditch." Peruse photos of the crowd and you'll find lots of sweat. You may also see beer being hurled at the stage, along with one of those sweaty fans. This is the litter of love, a mess to greet the band's wild tangle of grunge-laced bar rock, alt-country and blues. It's not conventionally pretty, but it's beautiful in a let-it-all-hang-out kind of way.
The band bring their rough and ragged songs to Live on King Street on Friday, Aug. 22, at 6 p.m. Though they're bound to play material from their dark 2013 album, Negativity, they're also likely to dust off some well-aged gems, from feel-good oldies to hammy bits of "Every Breath You Take."
Cross your fingers for these four tracks of yore, which are also full of surprises.
Though this song from 2007 builds on several blues traditions, it somehow ends up sounding a little like an early Modest Mouse tune or Dramarama's alt-rock staple "Anything, Anything." Desperation seeps from the haunting melody and frontman John McCauley's unforgettable voice, which sounds like it's spent 30 years marinating in whiskey. All hell breaks loose when brawling metal-grass fiddles and a revving engine interrupt the proceedings, but then the band's beat-keeping stomp returns, as steady as ever. Featuring minor-key guitar flourishes, the first and last notes sound like an old flamenco tune, giving the track a lost-in-time quality.
The first moments of this 2011 single feature a drumbeat fit for a Shangri-Las hit. McCauley's grizzled pipes and jagged guitar shatter the dreamy love-song vibe before replacing it with the spirit of an indie rock anthem.
An ode to Jimi Hendrix's "Star Spangled Banner" kicks off this tune from 2011, which morphs into a surfy, punkish party song -- not a display of gnarly guitar solos -- before the 20-second mark. McCauley channels Elvis near the end as he shows off his lower registers.
Though Deer Tick fans know this song as the final track on the band's 2007 debut, War Elephant, it was also a major hit for Sammy Davis Jr. in 1962. Rockers had stolen much of the spotlight from easy-listening artists like Davis, but this tune helped him craft a new public image: cool and contemporary crooner.
Deer Tick's version is both an homage and a departure. It starts with what sounds like a classical violinist warming up, but beware: That's a trick. McCauley announces his presence with cymbals, then turns the tune into a back-of-the-bar slow dance. With cheerful bells, major-key strings and lively percussion, the song's midsection might make you think a happy ending's on the way. Surprise: You've been fooled again. McCauley reappears, slowing the tempo to a woozy shuffle as he wonders, "What kind of clown am I?" His rasp polishes the final note so it goes down nice and smooth.