“I got a lust for life/And a dangerous mind”, snarls Deer Tick lead singer John Joseph McCauley in “The Bump” as those words of defiance echo the famous sentiments of Iggy Pop and provide a rough and tumble introduction to the band’s latest album, Divine Providence. “We’re full grown men but we act like kids/We’ll face the music next time we roll in”, is a refrain shouted throughout this track, and those words could not be more apt, as they reference not only the band’s live antics but their newfound guerilla approach to recording. Here, the fellas holed up in their hometown of Providence, Rhode Island and let fly with the intentions of capturing the true raucous and boozy Deer Tick sound. They say it best themselves on their website:
It’s got a little Exile, it’s got a little In Utero, it’s got a little Nilsson Schmilsson, but it’s 100% Deer-Fucking-Tick in their purest, and most carefree form…perhaps that’s because this is the first record they’ve recorded in their home state of Rhode Island…GAH! No need to over-think this shit!!!
Succinct yet accurate; this about sums up the record. There is that Exile sound: the tossed-off shuffle of “Walkin Out The Door”, that In Utero thrash and Cobain growl: the menacing “Main Street”, and two-minute stomper “Something to Brag About” and Nilsson Folk: the vagabond’s lament “Clownin Around”. The influences are heavy yet the style is uniquely their own as the album does in fact sound like a Deer Tick live show where McCauley can veer from solo acoustic sincerity to gnarly rock frontman to drunken MC host in the span of an hour. There are even several of his cheeky asides and non-sequiturs thrown in for good measure. Here, though, McCauley is helped out with lead vocal duties by both guitarist Ian O’Neil and drummer Dennis Ryan, who take turns leading a couple of tracks. Though McCauley possesses one of the most uniquely distinct voices in rock today, it can wear its course over the length of an album. The cameo vocals here serve as a nice meander from McCauley’s material and add strength and versatility to the band’s lineup. Somewhat reminiscent of Conor Oberst’s Mystic Valley Band, the presence of other vocalists may at first seem slightly askew in the proceedings, but render themselves well over repeated listens. These tracks fit perfectly into the mix and are vital compositions rather than mere throwaways.
Deer Tick live and in person is always a spectacle to behold. Regardless of the day of the week they play your town, the band members will whoop it up like a revved-up start to the weekend. With Divine Providence, they’ve made a recorded document that spreads around the debauchery and rock decadence for all times sake.