More focused than War Elephant, Deer Tick's sophomore album, Born on Flag Day, is comprised of ten songs in the straight-up stylings of indie rock and Americana. Vocalist John Joseph McCauley III's singing is still raspy, like a down-home version of Axl Rose, but here, he and his crew flesh out their woodsy sensibilities with a larger scope. This more expansive take builds "Smith Hill" to higher heights with the inclusion of orchestral backing tracks and rounds out "Stung," the tender '60s ballad of the record, with touches of electric piano. The sound is bigger, and the hooks are more palpable. By sacrificing grit, some of the charm that made the debut a success is lost along the way, but the sleeker production is only a minor setback and some of the songs onboard are Deer Tick's best thus far. Even with a heavy helping of spiteful, desperate lyrics delivered straight from the bottom of the bottle, the sparkling production makes Deer Tick seem like a likely crossover to the mainstream: especially fans of Tom Petty and John Prine. Following the blueprint of some of the sweeter moments on War Elephant, pedal steel and tremolo guitars make "White Lies" a heartwarming mood piece before it switches gears and springs into a rollicking romp, and the first two minutes of "Song About a Man" wisely capitalize on the cigarette-weary singer's ability to shine with only an acoustic and a kick drum, before bringing in harmonica and cello for the climax. The leadoff, "Easy," is probably the most amiable and accessible song of the bunch, clearly illustrating that McCauley's songwriting has matured substantially.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by Jason Lymangrover