This review was originally written for Listen Before You Buy.
Fans of alt-country, energetic tongue-in-cheek rock and scratchy, bright voices will find the latest Deer Tick release “Divine Providence” to be much to their liking. From delicate electric guitar licks to thickly played and insistent drums, the album carouses along with such a playful air that the few slow-down ballads it contains are never a drag, but a surprising and thoughtful interruption to an album that feels like a carnival.
The sounds of 80’s synthesizers are counter-parted by organ music, strummed acoustic pieces and thumping drums. Album opener ‘The Bump’ is a stand-out track which quickly introduces the band’s seemingly inexhaustible energy, as John McCauley belts “I got a lust for life/ And a dangerous mind.” Similar in nature and likeability is the chorus-driven ‘Let’s All Go To The Bar’, and both songs bring us juvenile, joyous celebrations with hints of brilliance. The rag-time piano in the former is the perfect finishing touch on a feel-good track, and the Brit punk-band sound of latter fits its topic perfectly.
‘Clownin’ Around’ is more complex topic-wise and has allegorical undertones that leave the listener pondering its connotations. Considering the rumors about Deer Tick on tour, “the devil” that is referenced in the song could stand for a wide variety of vices.
While many bands of this persuasion would be happy to settle for party-boy rock with country infusion, Deer Tick strips past this template and wanders straight out into the wilderness. Smack dab in the middle of the album, the mellowed out gem ‘Chevy Express’ might be my favorite song Deer Tick has ever made. Shattering the devil-may-care attitude of the first half of the record, this ballad-like dreamscape invokes the freedom, wonder and sorrow of a night drive down a deserted highway.
The second half of the record has more of a wandering feel, but certainly not in the bad sense of the word. Alternating between the proud happiness of new love in ‘Something To Brag About’ and the final step of finally putting that old flame out in ‘Walkin Out The Door’, Deer Tick proves that this record is ultimately about more than just getting drunk. The haunting violins on ‘Electric’ create another soothing and stunning track amidst the frenzied rock that prevails on the album.
The one thing with all this diversity, though, is that the album almost feels like a hodgepodge of sound, as though some talented boys from Rhode Island took a bunch of instrumental ingredients, threw them into a bowl all at once, and began mixing. True to form, however, the amalgamation of these ingredients coalesces into something quite delicious; namely a highly involved and intricate record. This release confirms my suspicions once and for all that I’m simply going to love everything that Partisan Records puts out.