Deer Tick’s singer-songwriter John McCauley is obsessed with the regular young-man stuff—drinking, fighting, fucking, puking, sleeping, usually in that order—but on Divine Providence, it all comes out sounding like love songs. The object of McCauley’s affection is The Replacements; specifically, Paul Westerberg’s patented sensitive-asshole routine. “We’re full-grown men, but we act like kids,” McCauley bellows on “The Bump,” over a piss-drunk blues stomp that apes the spontaneous cacophony of Hootenanny’s infamous opening track. While the spirit is there, the sentiment is a little on the nose; at its weakest, like on the one-note punk-rock drinking song “Let’s All Go To The Bar,” Divine Providence does a little too much telling and not enough showing.
But when McCauley relaxes, and lets his genuine talent for penning rousing rock songs imbued with tough-guy sincerity shine through without the posturing, Deer Tick achieves that uniquely Westerbergian mix of fuck-it-all arrogance, intensely personal emotionalism, and sharply written (albeit sloppily executed) hooks. The bountiful power-pop of “Now It’s Your Turn” and the Merseybeat guitar chiming through “Walkin’ Out The Door” suggest Deer Tick isn’t as blotto as it claims to be, and the frisky, Wilco-esque roots-pop of “Miss. K” is pure bliss. Deer Tick’s members act like kids, but Divine Providence is best when they sound like full-grown men.