Is it really fair to call a band a “Super Group” when it is made up of members from under the radar outfits like Dawes, Delta Spirit and Deer Tick? I think, by definition, that the group would be considered a “Super Group,” but is there really anything super about it? How many have even heard of Dawes or Delta Spirit? Either way, the “super” group I am referring to is Middle Brother, composed of John J. McCauley III (Deer Tick), Taylor Goldsmith (Dawes), and Matt Vasquez (Delta Spirit). They released their first album earlier this year and gave me my first exposure to McCauley and his band, Deer Tick. I was particularly fond of the Middle Brother album, finding it to be folksy and cutting, but emotional and aural all at the same time. It might be a little unfair of me to expect the same sort of artisan from Divine Providence (their recently released album), but I had nothing else to base it off of. In an era of music when we have Deerhunter, the Dear Hunter, and Deer Tick (two of which from Providence, Rhode Island?), you have to find a way to differentiate yourself.
I don’t really remember any point on the Middle Brother album where the lead singer (all three of them took turns) screamed at me. It’s not that I’m opposed to being screamed at; if you want to play thrash metal, then I’m all for it. McCauley chooses to go that route pretty consistently throughout the album. I don’t mind it so much on the honkey tonk rouser, “The Bump,” which flirts with being a parody, but stays consistently fun throughout. By the fifth minute of “Funny Word,” however, I’m ready for him to ease up just a little bit and try singing for a little change of pace. It all factors in to this persona that McCauley is trying to create for himself on these tracks; a loud, vulgar, beer drankin’ scream sangin’ bro. It may be McCauley’s way of living vicariously through some character, but it is incredibly off putting on the albums.
The album title itself is a pun for their hometown of Providence. You can see in virtually every song that the songs are all done in homage to their roots. While I like the concept of writing about something as personal and important to you as your hometown, I just always feel like I’m on the outside looking in with this one. Perhaps there are subtle references to Providence that I don’t recognize, but all of the lyrics seem like they could be about any city in the world. “Main Street” is the primary example of this. Let’s just say I can’t visualize a single detail of a Providence neighborhood with duds like, “Main Street seems so lonely now.” I also am definitely not getting any warm nostalgia for my hometown with poetry like, “A selfish sense of bitch.” If it were actually McCauley expressing himself in these lines, I don’t think it would bother me so much. I just feel like he’s trying to be brash and coming off like (to quote the opening monologue of “Funny Word”) a “fucking douchebag.”
Deer Tick has been praised for very little, but one comment they often receive is for their work ethic. Since 2007, they have released four full-length LPs. That’s a Beatles-paced production rate. It is just a little sad if the highest compliment people give you is for how quickly you release your music. I think they should probably take a little while to craft their next outing before just recording everything that pops into their heads (which it seems like they did) and screaming it at me for eleven tracks.