Deer Tick celebrate the release of their rollicking new disc

Divine inspiration
By CHRIS CONTI  |  October 19, 2011

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SHARP-DRESSED MEN McCauley, Crowell, O’Neil, Dennis and Christopher Ryan.

John McCauley got a lust for life — and a dangerous mind. But we already knew that. A few thousand beers down the road, Deer Tick have unleashed Divine Providence (Partisan Records), their fourth album in five years. It's arguably DT's best (and damn-near possessed), hands-down their most entertaining, and the first recorded in Rhode Island (at Machines with Magnets in Pawtucket). Right now would be the time to ditch the "indie-folk/alt-country" tags often associated with the quintet, for Divine Providence is a bloodthirsty, rowdy bash captured on analog tape and a full-blown announcement that Deer Tick is now a flexing five-man operation.

>> PHOTOSDeer Tick at The Met by Richard McCaffrey <<

McCauley may look like a scraggly straggler who just fell out of the E & O Tap, but beneath the frayed veneer (and gold tooth) resides a talented songwriter ready (and reticent) to take on the scores of national press and packed rooms Deer Tick have encountered leading up to the album's release (next Tuesday) while tearing through yet another nationwide tour that kicked off with a two-night stand at the Met last week.

Divine Providence thumps hard and will most likely go down as DT's "party album," but that cheapens the thrill. It evokes their influences, from the Replacements (Paul Westerberg is a fan) to Townes Van Zandt and, of course, Nirvana. "We're full-grown men, but we act like kids," McCauley howls on Divine opener "The Bump," with his trademark, nicotine-shredded vocals atop the lumbering stomp and twinkling keys from newest member Rob Crowell, who joined the band full-time after the release of Black Dirt Sessions last year. Former Titus Andronicus guitarist Ian O'Neil gets in his share of prime time licks on the following "Funny Word," while drummer Dennis Ryan bashes the shit out of his kit and keeps the thunder rolling on "Let's All Go To the Bar." I imagine this beerhall sing-along went over pretty well when McCauley stopped by the E & O over the summer to debut new tracks for the neighborhood locals. For the first time, John steps aside as Dennis takes vocal duties on the gorgeous "Clownin' Around," and the big, burly drummer cools the pace with a Neil Young drawl (also heard on "Walkin' Out the Door"). You may not find heart-crushing ballads like "Piece by Piece (and Frame by Frame)" here, but cuts such as "Chevy Express" and "Electric" are radiant reminders that McCauley brings much more to the table than his perma-toasted persona lets on. Chuck Berry remains a vital influence within the DT crew, which is evident on the rollicking "Something to Brag About." O'Neil takes a swing at the mic and nails it on "Now It's Your Turn," one of three mellower cuts to close out Divine Providence; it's followed by "Electric" and "Miss K.," the album's breezy first single and would-be finale. But wait a good 30 minutes for hidden track "Mr. Cigarette," penned for the band by Paul Westerberg (!) and sung in the key of "I've Been Working On the Railroad."

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