On Deer Tick's website is a short intro to its latest record, Divine Providence. Detailing how the production of the new record departs radically from the band's previous efforts, Cecil Thyme writes: "This record may rattle your thoughts and it may make you think differently about Deer Tick, but at least they didn't make the same album four times in a row, right?"
Thyme hit the mark--as well he should, since frontman John McCauley admitted in a Boston Globe interview that he writes his own releases under that pseudonym.
Everywhere on the record, the band sounds fuller, yet rawer; the production is lusher, yet less refined. The spacey synth of "Make Believe" would have been completely foreign on past Deer Tick efforts, but it is at home here. So are the blues-influenced numbers interspersed among the more melodic song structures fans are familiar with. "Let's All Go to the Bar" is, appropriately, a rollicking barroom romp framed by studio noise and comments ("Let's go get drunk," someone says as the guitars die down). "Walkin' Out the Door" is a driving, bluesy break-up song with a half-shouted chorus.
The acoustic guitar, storytelling style and well-paced melody of "Clownin' Around" recall the band's earlier efforts, even as electric piano and additional percussion mark it off as a staple of the group's newer style. This duality is most evident here, but it is present throughout the album. Though the similarities are obscured by the fuller sound, the songwriting on Divine Providence is closer to that of the band's 2007 debut, War Elephant, than either of the band's middle two records (2009's Born on Flag Day and 2010's The Black Dirt Sessions).
The pop-folk strum of "Miss K" closes the record simply, yet elegantly. Deer Tick released this song early to promote the album and it's an understandable choice--here, again, the band seems to step back from the rawer, thicker sound found in the bulk of the record. But perhaps this song didn't fully prepare fans for the difference in the band's sound, and maybe the group wanted it this way. Divine Providence is a surprise but a welcome one.