Release Date: Oct 24, 2011
Record label: Partisan
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock
If Deer Tick's first couple of albums got the Rhode Island band branded as an alt-country act, their latest is a drunk leaning into your face and yelling, "You don't know me, man!" On a set of howling rockers, frontman John McCauley pulls a genre jailbreak as impressive as the time that Ryan Adams ditched Whiskeytown to pledge his love for Morrissey and electric Dylan. Gang-holler choruses recall guitarist Ian O'Neil's last band, Titus Andronicus; "Main Street" nods to a classic Rolling Stones album. But the unlisted cover of Paul Westerberg's "Mr.
A quick turnaround from last year’s Black Dirt Sessions, the Providence-based outfit delivers another terrific effort that blends trademark lo-fi indie folk with blues and rock. The tunes range from the quirky (“The Bump”) to party anthem (“Let’s Go to the Bar”), which makes this record the band’s most eclectic to date. Just when you think you’ve seen all the Tick’s tricks, they release this.
John McCauley’s career in music has been fixed on a path of steady evolution ever since the release of Deer Tick’s studio debut War Elephant in 2007. With each subsequent record, his band has risen to the self-imposed challenge to outdo themselves—to do something they haven’t done before. Following last year’s brooding Black Dirt Sessions comes Divine Providence, a double-shot, rough-and-tumble rock ‘n’ roll record that only McCauley and company could craft.
From the outset (‘The Bump’), Deer Tick set themselves up as a newly rambunctious bunch. “We’re full grown men / And we act like kids,” they growl, before you’ve even had a chance to shake their hand. They introduce songs by saying “you fucking douchebag” and, frankly, you can smell the testosterone a mile off. Admittedly, this is Deer Tick kicking loose a little and busting out of the alt-country / folk / blues mould that they had restlessly settled into.
In a time when every other conversation seems to revolve around the United States' inevitably doomed economy, it's nice to have a band like Deer Tick. From a fan's eye, John McCauley -- the frontman and mastermind of the group -- is living the American Dream. Back in 2004, when he was merely 19, the aspiring artist convinced his parents to allow him to skip college and focus on music.
The fourth full-length studio album from singer/songwriter John McCauley's ragged, lo-fi, alt-country, indie rock outfit Deer Tick sounds more like the band that occasionally devotes entire sets to Nirvana under the “Deervana” moniker than it does the folksy, garage-bound hybrid of Nebraska-era Springsteen and Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers that appeared on earlier albums. Recorded in the band’s hometown of Providence, Rhode Island, Divine Providence sounds like last call and feels like the morning after, offering up 12 slabs of Stooges and Stones-inspired raw power that celebrate the sweet lows and fleeting highs of being young, numb, and full of rum in a blue-collar town with nothing to lose. Closer in tone to the band’s raucous live shows, Deer Tick channel Damaged-era Black Flag on “The Bump” and “Let’s All Go to the Bar,” mid-period Spoon on “Main Street” and “Make Believe,” and a less self-aware Hold Steady on “Chevy Express” and “Something to Brag About,” resulting in their loosest, wildest, and most honest collection of Saturday night/Sunday morning pining/drinking songs to date.
My first encounter with Deer Tick was through John McCauley’s unknown “supergroup” Middle Brother, a quintet in which he shares the spotlight with Dawes and Delta Spirit frontmen Taylor Goldsmith and Matt Vasquez. Though Middle Brother’s music less resembles Deer Tick’s hard alt-rockin’ and booze-drinkin’ country roots and more so applies Goldsmith’s odes to Neil Young that Dawes is so akin to, it was McCauley’s live performance that made me listen to Deer Tick. The Rhode Island-based singer has the partier persona of Slash in the ‘80s with the laidback southern mentality of Billy Ray Cyrus.
Never a band for subtleties, Deer Tick’s Divine Providence just might be the musical equivalent of the Rhode Island country/folk rockers burping in your face. Their fourth effort in just five years, the album is a mean cocktail of the band’s notable stage energy thrown into the studio and spit out in a rowdy, flying-by-the-seat-of-its-pants sound. Deer Tick made a name for themselves with the artful handling of scrappy, blues-tinged folk, but their latest is more of a hodgepodge than the jangly Americana of 2009’s Born on Flag Day or the splintered beauty of 2010’s The Black Dirt Sessions.
Along with codependents like Dawes and more recently Blitzen Trapper, Deer Tick have taken advantage of rock's ebb from masculine aggressiveness, guitars, and live debauchery and assumed the mantle of a certain rabble-rousing, hard-living, road-dog ideal to much acclaim. But on their previous LPs, you could chalk up their "real deal" shtick to youth and inexperience, and it was hard to truly hate-- how to explain the heel turn they take here? Within the first 10 minutes, John J. McCauley III has laid out in no uncertain terms that he's going to get super blotto tonight, called you a fucking douchebag, belched loudly, and then capped it off by matter-of-factly stating, "let's all get drunk.
Rhode Island rock band Deer Tick got its pun on with the title of this new record. Not only is Divine Providence a reference to its hometown; it’s a smirking remark cast at the group’s unholy collection of indie-country rock tunes. “I saw the light,” singer John McCauley mockingly proclaims on the first track, “and I ran like a fool!” This sets the tone for the continually irreverent, frequently intoxicated and occasionally introspective set of tunes that makes up the group’s fourth full-length effort.
No matter what we may call our music these days, “alternative,” “indie,” “noise rock,” if you look at it squarely and say there are no real rock and roll bands anymore, you’re not really wrong. Oh sure, we’ve got poetic, dreamy dudes like Band Of Horses and The Kooks, we have arena rock and its big-drum anthems of alienation from the likes of U2. But where, you may ask, are the fast, noisy guys, who come into the house, eat your food, steal your silver, wipe their noses on your curtains and don’t even apologize.
KELLY CLARKSON “Stronger” (RCA) When Kelly Clarkson is aggrieved, all’s right with the world. That dates to her 2004 album, “Breakaway,” one of the most significant shape-shifts in recent pop memory, taking Ms. Clarkson from well-meaning “American Idol” winner to voice of the oppressed, thanks to venomous, high-energy rock-pop like “Since U Been Gone” and “Behind These Hazel Eyes.” In the years since she’s wavered from that mission from time to time, trading her scorn for concern or reflection, but Ms.