Deer Tick – [Album]

Wednesday, 02 November 2011

Few bands embrace and convey the rock ‘n’ roll spirit like Deer Tick. They have also managed to include some introspection to round things out a bit. On their fourth album Divine Providence, the required ingredients are all still there; beer, irreverence and a bit of debauchery – check, check and check. But there’s also a bit more.

With a wonderfully gravelly voice, singer John McCauley takes listeners through his days as a touring musician, with all the booze and burps included; the sneering, spitting vocals and accompanying raw, gritty music sounds very much like a live recording. A live recording made after the band just tumbled out of the beer can strewn van that they borrowed from an ex-girlfriend’s mom without telling her, that is. If it sounds like the album is an incoherent, inebriated mess, it’s not. It is definitely rowdy and immature, but also genuine, contemplative and heartfelt. It is just those moments that save the album from being something which could be easily dismissed.

Divine Providence opens with the prominent honky-tonk piano of the sing-along “The Bump.” For the uninitiated, the song is a good intro for what is to come and sets the scene for the album’s loud, rowdy and playful nature. The song begins appropriately with:

“Got a lust for life
And a dangerous mind
In my trail of dust
Who knows what you’ll find
Well, I can take a tree
And tear it from its roots
If you see me
I suggest you mooove”

From there, the listener is further immersed in the life of a rock musician. At times you can almost smell the beer, sweat and cigarettes as the band plays in the basement of a frat house, more than a little pissed to be playing for a bunch of douche bags. It’s an in-your-face chronicle and it is incredibly effective. Sounding very much like Paul Westerberg singing “Shooting Dirty Pool,” some songs would be right at home if they were slipped in somewhere between the tracks of a Replacements album.
Although Divine Providence is a cohesive collection, not all of the tracks are filled with partying, Beastie Boys sensibilities or Animal House quips in between songs. There is a very strong sense of soul-searching and regret hidden in the corners of Divine Providence, or at least acknowledgement of transgressions as the lyrics pick at their scabs and stare into the remains of a cheap, stale beer in a dirty plastic cup. A highlight of this is “Clownin’ Around” with alt-country crooning by drummer Dennis Ryan which includes the lyrics:

“Though I’ve walked down a crooked path
That don’t mean it wasn’t cursed
My feeble heart was filled with wrath
My poison mind with thoughts perverse
And the devil is living my basement
I’m trying hard to hide him from my wife
And I know some day I’m gonna have to face him
But for now I keep my secrets with the night”

Finishing with the biggest departure in terms of sound, “Electric” is an honest narrative with a swirling string accompaniment which works because it’s believable. As has been done on countless records over the years, much of the album is both an embrace of and lament about juvenile debauchery. With just one less song about party life clichés, Divine Providence might be taken a little more seriously, which is what it seems to be begging for. It succeeds as a great collection of music about romanticized life spent on a rickety stage tucked in a too-small space in the back of a beer-soaked bar. While it may lose points with some for being less than profound, the songs are authentic, earnest and represent a strong example of melancholy and real emotion.



Divine Providence
is out now. Buy it here on Amazon .

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