Beautiful Girls (2009)
“Beautiful Girls” has to be the happiest suicidal song ever laid down. Dear Tick’s cover of the stripped-down Reggae original by innocent abroad Sean Kingston, is so bouncy you’d better be sure to catch yourself from tumbling off the nearest building edge.
It starts off slow and at first seems it’s going to be an accurate cover of Kingston’s teen lament. Soon enough, Rhode Island’s Deer Tick breaks open the piñata and out cascades all the bright, shiny roots and references that make Rock-N-Roll the huge, timeless phenomena it’s been for decades.
Deer Tick’s “Beautiful Girls”
Both tunes are built around Ben E. King’s 1961 classic, “Stand By Me,” which is familiar to anyone who is even lightly in touch with pop culture. (King’s song was in turn influenced by Psalm 46:2-3, which is the wellspring for many old Negro spirituals.)
As the band unlimbers, they race through almost every musical groove you can imagine. They do it deftly, somehow managing to fit them snugly and smartly into the whole production.
Ben E. King knocks out the immortal “Stand By Me”
After the slow, ballad-like intro, Tick takes the fundamental Calypso of “Stand By Me” and Sean Kingston’s Reggae-lite and gooses them up ten notches until we’re hearing something that’s in the same ballpark as Del Shannon’s “Runaway.”
But… but… there is a sound that is also evocative of the Rumba. The song’s more of a hip-shaker than either Ben E. King or Sean Kingston managed. A real dance number. And, despite its rather desperate lyrics, it’s got sexiness written all over it.
It’s to the Deer Tick’s credit that they don’t dilute or gussy up Kingston’s studied street-cred lyrics.
See it started at the park
Used to chill there after dark
Oh when you took my heart
That’s when we fell apart
Cause we both thought
That love lasts forever
They say we’re too young
To get ourselves sprung
Oh we didn’t care
We made it very clear
And they also said
That we couldn’t last together
Though the misguidedly misogynistic second half of the chorus has to be noted, it also has to be forgiven as a hiccup related to adolescent angst. Beauty has no monopoly on being a fountain of romantic hurt:
Damn all these beautiful girls
They only wanna do you dirt
They’ll have you suicidal, suicidal
When they say it’s over
In the midst of the song, unsurprisingly, yet somehow fresh and entertaining, Beatlesque harmonies emerge, and for a moment, John, Paul and George are alive and echoing again.
About three minutes into “Beautiful Girls,” something even more inventive pops up, a gorgeous, emotional instrumental break that combines the best of Eagles/Flying Burrito Brothers out-on-the-highway slide guitar is folded magically in with surf guitar. The boys from “Little Rhody” took themselves a long way off to reach Southern California.
Then, as if to say, “Watch this,” Deer Tick comes out of the break and transforms the song into a revamp of Doo Wop, complete with bip-bips and bop-bops, almost obscuring the lead vocals.
Darlin’, darlin’, stand by me
Whoa, ho-a, stand by me
Deer Tick has stood by Rock-N-Roll in “Beautiful Girls” and other wonderful songs they’ve released. So far, it appears that Rock is standing by them.
- Oddly enough, “Beautiful Girls” was only “released” on MySpace of all places. An email to the band’s management yields no further information.
- “Beautiful Girls” appears nowhere else on Deer Tick’s albums or EPs.