Graded on a Curve:
Deer Tick,
Divine Providence

Hey, how about we forget about this stupid review and go get trashed instead? Yeah, yeah, yeah, drinking to excess is bad for your moral fiber and could even land you in the rooms of Alcoholics Anonymous or in an El Camino wrapped around a utility pole (like me!), but sometimes you just gotta go off like a human roman candle or die a little inside, ya know?

And it’s this wild hair up yr ass, this impulse to just go off the rails and to hell with the consequences, this itch that you just GOTTA scratch that Deer Tick captures so wonderfully on 2011’s divinely raucous Divine Providence. The LP title’s a salute to the band’s Rhode Island hometown; the contents therein include some of the most barbaric yawps and calls to get shitfaced this side of Gang Green’s “Alcohol” or the Dictators’ damn near definitive “Weekend.”

Divine Providence is by no means a perfect album; the first four songs are drop dead great, near perfect actually, but after that it’s hit or miss if only because the party mostly peters out and Deer Tick is reduced to pure songcraft, the problem with that being that a couple of these songs sound suspiciously like songs by other bands.

Deer Tick’s owe a heavy debt to the Replacements, and on “Main Street” they don’t even try to hide it. And I can’t listen to “Chevy Express” (what a waste of a great title!) without hearing Spoon. Meanwhile, “Make Believe” is a bizarro homage (or should I make that wholesale swipe?) of Neil Young’s “Like a Hurricane,” right down to its human cannonball guitar riff and opening lines (compare “I saw you dancing through the window” to “Once I thought I saw you/In a crowded hazy bar/Dancing on the light/From star to star”), with a touch of Spoon tossed in for flavoring.

Don’t get me wrong; I like all of the above songs, just as I like the perky “Walkin’ Out the Door” (pure pop with some tasty organ and a bad attitude), the piano ballad “Now It’s Your Turn” (kinda brings to mind the early seventies Stones in country honk heartbreak mode, only with better harmonies and a big fuzzed-out ax solo), “Electric” (moody midnight electric piano croon, and I’ll be damned if don’t hear Spoon again), and “Miss K.” (friendly acoustic jangle pop that segues, after mucho dead air, into a roadhouse-friendly cover of Paul Westerberg’s “Mr. Cigarette,” which is basically “I’ve Been Working on the Railroad” with new lyrics, which just goes to show you Deer Tick aren’t the only ripoff artists in the business). That said, I can’t say I love any of ‘em..

But hey, on to the bright and shining stuff! “Let’s All Go to the Bar” captures the big glad symphony of life as expressed in a desire to drink boilermakers until you’re pig blind; it’s a rousing Saturday night (or any night!) celebration of corner bar inebriation, complete with pro-blotto lyrics (“I don’t care if you’re already drunk/This is one night school I won’t flunk”) punctuated with happy-making regularity by the communal drunken shout, “Let’s all go to the bar!” Why, this baby could be the Barfly National Anthem!

Almost as good (and every bit as rowdy) is the creaking, lurching “The Bump,” on which McCauley sings he’s got a lust for life, demands pills (give him some pills! sings the band) and tells you he’s got a name (he’s got a name! sings the band). And that name is–wait for it–The Bump! As for the band in general he sings, “We’re full grown men/But we act like kids/We’ll face the music/Next time we roll in,” which ain’t as good a couplet as Redd Kross’ “We are not stupid boys/But we want to do it wrong” but still pretty damn good. Oh, and then McCauley does some bad whistling.

Then there’s the pounding-like-a-bad-hangover “Funny Word,” which opens with the words “You fucking douchebag” and in general comes down on you like a ton of bricks. Oh, and the funny word is love! Also worthy of special mention: the heavy-as-fuck rave-up “Something to Brag About,” which comes at you like a Johnny B. Goode gone very Johnny B. Wrong, what with that switchblade guitar and McCauley tearing the words to pieces with his incisors–and then swallowing them!

And if you’ve gotten the idea that I’m only a fan of the party tunes, I give you “Clownin’ Around,” which sorta breezes along all upbeat until you listen to the lyrics (“And the devil is living in my basement/I’m trying hard to hide him from my wife”) and realize drummer Dennis Ryan’s channeling the voice of Killer Clown Extraordinaire John Wayne Gacy. Party’s over!

I’m not going to lie to you; I’m not exactly bowled over by Divine Providence. Too many songs that leave me lukewarm at best, which pretty much sums up my feelings about Deer Tick’s other LPs as well. That said, it ain’t every day that a bona fide barroom classic comes a puking on your shoes, and I will always be happy to do the bump to “The Bump.”

I give it a B (+). As in Booze!

GRADED ON A CURVE:
B+

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