Deer Tick Infest the Belly Up

The only thing more attractive than a bad boy is a bad boy redeemed — or so Deer Tick would have you believe

The only thing more attractive than a bad boy is a bad boy redeemed — or so Rhode Island folk rockers Deer Tick would have you believe.

Deer Tick are on the road yet again, this time promoting the intensely intimate September release, “Negativity,” with a stop at the Belly Up on Sunday. The record’s a deviation for the boys, who’ve spent the better part of decade drinking their way into a reputation as bold and debaucherous but talented musicians. It’s that very reputation that brought Deer Tick to “Negativity,” the group’s most fine-tuned, accomplished album to date.

After a tumultuous year spent almost exclusively touring, the group came together with Steve Berlin (perhaps best known as the saxophonist of Los Lobos and formerly of the Blasters). Of the 30 demos submitted to him by the group, Berlin chose 12 tracks to be refined. On the resulting album, frontman John McCauley takes on his all-too-public destructive descent — addressing his father’s imprisonment for tax fraud, his own struggles with substance abuse and his broken engagement — with guitarist Ian O’Neil contributing a piano-laden track about the consequences of nonstop touring.

The haunting album provides a sharp contrast to 2011’s “Divine Providence,” which enticed harder crowds (and turned off some Deer Tick purists) with its riotous lyrics, banging instrumentals and punk-rock attitude. Part of what makes Deer Tick so enticing, however, is that inherent unpredictability. The set-smashing energy of inebriated young men has boiled down into experience, giving breath to gritty, almost desperate performers who captivate with brutal honesty and sobering rawness. From the band that alternatively matches head-banging with country twang comes a sound as fluid as its makers, evolving alongside the musicians. Expect nothing less at Sunday night’s show.

This article originally appeared on NBC SoundDiego. October 27, 2013.