label: PIAS (Play It Again Sam)
dEUS are a rare breed of legend in their native Belgium. They’ve been the authorative style icons in the Belgian rockscene for nearly two decades, creating an impressive slipstream of artists indebted to their alternative rock idiom. Meanwhile, the Antwerp-based outfit’s path has been riddled with stylistic turns, clashing ego’s, political engagement and artistic soulsearching, spread across five studio albums. While some argue that dEUS have reached their artistic peak at their jazzy/experimental 2nd album In A Bar, Under The Sea (1996), this third line-up is perchance the most solid and surely the longest running incarnation of the band. Having arrived in their late thirties, leading man Tom Barman and his compadres have lost little -if any- of their restless artistic vigour.
live performance (Pukkelpop Fesival 2008) of Instant Street (from The Ideal Crash (1999))
The coming about of dEUS’ sixth studio effort Keep You Close is a peculiar one. Their previous studio effort Vantage Point (2008) was criticised for containing too much abrasive, one-dimensional machismo and too little stunning songwriting. Despite such anthemic staples as The Architect and Slow, it was dense, industrial and distant. Simply put: it was cooler than it was honest. The band declared they recognised it should be the other way around. As such, Keep You Close is an attempt at rekindling the intimacy and immediacy they used to emanate. Moreover, it’s also the first album that was written entirely by dEUS as a group, abandoning Barman’s songwriter-pieces in favour of collaborative works.
live performance (Lowlands Festival 2011) of The Architect (from Vantage Point (2008))
These changes are felt throughout the album. The organic key-driven productions are a breath of fresh air, with a more laidback and loose atmosphere than any other dEUS album. Barman’s voice is calm and supple here, quite a relief from the aggreviated groans and shouting heard on Vantage Point. Of course there are plenty of raging outbursts left, but these seem to be less about ego-play and more like Barman actually has something to get off his chest. Dark Sets In and Twice (We Survive) have a particularly heartfelt delivery. This is enforced in a great way by the appearance of none other than Greg Dulli (ex-Afghan Whigs, Twilight Singers) as guest-vocalist on these pieces, his bone chilling outcries a perfect match for Barman’s gravely baritone.
official videoclip for Constant Now
But in the end the group efforts pay off most on Keep You Close. Leadsingle Constant Now encourages you to shout along to the standout vocal of bassist Alan Gevaert in the chorus, while the marimba-infected Ghosts sees the entire gang singing as one. Whereas many past dEUS staples revolve around dialogue and contrast between the vocalists, this time around they achieve a solid uniformity-in-variety. dEUS still contains very different characters with their own unique traits (insert culthero/leadguitarist Mauro Pawlowski), but they’re all thoroughly focused on their collective output. There are hardly any standout bits here that can be attributed to any one member of the group.
a live performance (Berlin Festival 2011) of Ghosts
Keep You Close is a clear statement about dEUS in 2011 BC. It’s one of their most cohesive efforts, with very clear artistic outlining from start to finish. The intimacy they were shooting for is very well represented here. Don’t mistake dEUS for a borderline popact, though. They’ve maintained a proper balance between the catchy sing-alongs and the chorus-free spoken-word bits (End Of Romance) or the long-spanning epic stuff (Easy). Will it please their old school fans? Probably not, but then again most of them made their minds up long ago. The music lovers whom have no problem giving a new dEUS record a spin can feast their ears on an inviting, nine song collection with an appeal that stretches well beyond the first dozen listens.
Interested in the recording process of Keep You Close ? Check out this short documentary below!