It's probable that you've already heard Deer Tick's debut album, War Elephant: It was originally released last fall, and the only thing that has changed on the new version is the artwork. Over the course of the year since the album's initial release, Deer Tick has built enough of a reputation to warrant the reissue -- and hopefully, a new wave of attention from those who've yet to discover the band.
War Elephant is easy to love for those automatically drawn to its main attributes: warm, scratchy vocals and guitars, fuzzy basslines, and the merging of indie singer-songwriter charm with vintage country accents. Front man John McCauley is twenty-two going on fifty-two, and his songwriting shows an unpolished but compelling level of promise that draws comparison to Two Gallants or M. Ward. War Elephant's opening track, "Art Isn't Real (City of Sin)" is also its strongest, drawing the listener in with its familiar-sounding ache. It's true that Deer Tick feels reminiscent of a gritty intellectual sound that's become as synonymous with the term "indie rock" as the angular humor of bands like Pavement once was.
At the same time, the fact that you can never quite pin this sound down is a testament to a certain originality. From the noisy steam-engine sound of "These Old Shoes" to the infectious glee of "Spend The Night," McCauley and company work hard to wrap their debut in a shroud of nostalgia. Paired with smart, straightforward lyricism, this aural cloaking works. As an album with plenty of tough, similar-minded competition, it's a solid but potentially forgettable listen; as the first effort by a notably young band, it's exciting to think of where they could take things. Appropriately, Deer Tick solidify their status as "old souls in young bodies" by ending War Elephants with the Sammy Davis Jr. standard "What Kind of Fool Am I?". Unsurprisingly, they nail it.