The night I first heard Deer Tick is the night I fell through a glass coffee table. For the past seven years the third weekend of October has been reserved for my annual “poker” trip, otherwise known as “Veiny Balloon Weekend”, which takes place somewhere along the Virginia/North Carolina border with seven lovable scoundrels with whom my best friend attended grad school. Amid all that testosterone it’s important to assert your alpha male status early on, which is why, upon arriving to our Outer Banks beach house, I challenged one of the largest of the bunch to a wrestling match. But sadly he stuffed my initial takedown attempt and as I backed away to size him up the coffee table impeded the process.
Over the course of seven years our debauchery has been elevated to an art form, which should explain how I rose from a pile of broken glass unscathed. VBW doesn’t afford time for hospital visits or questions of personal well-being. There are too many other important questions to be addressed: Are six thirty packs and four handles going to be enough for the weekend? How attractive was that cashier at the drive through liquor store? Wasn’t there a similar coffee table in the game room downstairs?
Over the years stories have accumulated like a glimmering pyramid of empty beer cans. Point being I trust these men. How much of that is mutually assured destruction I can’t quite say. Regardless, when one of them endorses a good smartphone app or pre-workout supplement or band, I listen. So it went with Deer Tick. We were playing cards when my friend—“Brent” we will call him for the sake of this story—suggested we give them a listen. Brent is a professor of journalism at a major American university and a lousy bluffer. The Yuengling soaked living room provided the right acoustics for Black Dirt Sessions. Immediately I began to draw parallels between the rock band and our band of rogues, one hand lighting the cigarette of another. “Twenty Miles” revealed the Deer Tick’s ability to be youthfully playful with classic themes: “If you’re running away, I’m looking for you/ and if you’ve lost your way, I’m seeing you through.”
We discovered a sheet of glass on the coffee table in the game room. It fit almost perfectly. And because of a dark wicker frame, its absence was scarcely noticeable. Under the cover of nightfall I skulked across the street to an abandoned lot where I hid the box of broken glass amid other carelessly discarded refuse. The future of our sizable security deposit seemed vastly improved.
Each year the challenge is to outdo ourselves. But sometimes we go too far, as with the coffee table, which I might add, luckily we never got charged for. Such was the case with Deer Tick’s fourth album, Divine Providence. McCauley adopted Aldous Snow-like bravado. The party ran too late into the morning. The beer got warm. The jokes got old. It lacked the redemptive—and nuanced—qualities of Black Dirt Sessions. But we still rocked it out of its healthy respect for chaos. “Miss K”, for one, will always hold a spot on my trip playlist.
With this year’s Veiny Balloon Weekend comes a new soundtrack, as Deer Tick is scheduled to release their fifth album, Negativity, on September 24. The first single, “The Rock”, is available here. It is a vast subterranean ballad, save some strangely cheerful horns. McCauley sings like a man possessed and rightfully so, as the album was written during a time in which his father was indicted for tax evasion and his engagement to Nikki Darlin fell apart. My hope is that McCauley will channel his struggles to return the band to its Black Dirt roots. My hope is for a leather ottoman.