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Fanged and de-twanged

Deer Tick struggles to escape its indie-folk stereotype



Now that Deer Tick has released its fourth album, Divine Providence, frontman John McCauley III has one simple wish for what the album will do for the band.

"I will die happy if I never hear the words indie-folk or Americana ever again," says McCauley, who's heard those terms associated with his band more times than he cares to count. "I think we're kind of frustrated with what people had imagined our career had become."

But with Divine Providence (a reference to the band's Rhode Island hometown), Deer Tick has managed to slip away from the shadows of folk, country or any other music with a discernible twang.

All that becomes clear with the stomping beat of the raucous opener, "The Bump." Several other songs follow in the same garage-roots-romp vein, including the hyper-speed rockers "Let's All Go to the Bar" and "Something to Brag About."

While certainly loud and boisterous, Deer Tick hasn't lost the tuneful craftsmanship that has always been part of its music. "Walkin Out the Door" (which has a bit of Brit-pop to it) and "Main Street" (which sounds like a lost Replacements gem) are both filled with great hooks, smart riffs and witty, insightful lyrics.

And while there are a few songs, such as "Clownin Around" and "Chevy Express," that dial down the volume and more closely recall the earlier albums, McCauley knows that the album, released two weeks ago on Partisan Records, will baffle at least a few fans.

"We might piss some people off with this record, but what do you want? We're not going to do another War Elephant," says McCauley, referring to the 2007 debut that started getting the band pigeon-holed with the labels the frontman would grow to despise.

Prior to that, McCauley had been a solo act, touring on his own or with an evolving cast of other musicians. After three years of that, he decided it was time to record a "real" album under the Deer Tick name.

After playing all the instruments on that first album himself, McCauley set about turning Deer Tick into a "real" band, beginning with drummer Dennis Ryan, who had played with him before. Next to join was Dennis' half-brother Chris Ryan on bass.

It took until last year for the current lineup to come together with the arrival of Ian O'Neil and Rob Crowell. "Ian's style, I work really well with him," says McCauley of the guitarist. "And then Rob, the keyboard player and saxophone player, he's such a solid musician that it really rounds out our sound, I think, and he really fills it out. So I guess I just happened to find a bunch of guys that, at this point, I really couldn't do this without them."

While the de-twanged new album might be interpreted as a serious departure, McCauley says Divine Providence simply captures a side of the band that has always existed — especially live. "I think it helps reinforce what we've kind of been doing for years. At least now there are songs like that on our record. We've always played loud, fast and noisy."

"We just kind of do whatever we feel like doing," adds McCauley, "and hopefully people like it."

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