Deer Tick have grown. After a slew of alcohol-drenched offerings big on chaos and low on introspection, the Rhode Island alt-country outlaws' fifth album is a leap forward musically and emotionally. Songs are focused, multi-layered and crafted, sometimes even bringing Wilco's more experimental moments to mind.
But does maturity suit Deer Tick? John McCauley's voice - still rough and badass - sometimes fails to settle in with the elegant orchestration, and now and then his stabs at sincerity come off as clichéd (Just Friends, Hey Doll). The vocal grit gets laughable during In Our Time, a duet with sweet-voiced Vanessa Carlton about McCauley's father's going to prison for conspiracy and tax fraud.
Plenty of tunes surpass expectations, though. The Rock bursts with passion and melody, and The Dream's In The Ditch has loads of heartland rock appeal. Mr. Sticks hits a genuinely sad tone, and Thyme a genuinely spooked one. Pot Of Gold near the end finally just lets the rock and roll rip.
Top track: The Dream's In The Ditch
Deer Tick play Lee's Palace October 10.