We first saw dEUS by accident when on holiday in France, just as their debut hit single Suds & Soda was breaking through into the mainstream (at least in Belgium and France).
We were immediately wowed by their look and sound, and were excited about having discovered cool new music that other people wouldn’t know, meaning we could look good in front of our friends. This was back in the day when the idea of Belgian indie was laughable, and yet here were some of the coolest dudes on the planet pleasuring our ears with some of the loveliest and most interesting music we’d heard for ages.
What was going on?!
dEUS was going on, that’s what.
We managed to see them live on The Ideal Crash tour, at Leeds’s Duchess of York pub (and they were truly amazing) and then later in London, John at the Electric Ballroom in Camden, and Gordon at Scala.
In each podcast episode we talk through the artist’s history chronologically, picking our favourite tracks and ranking the albums as we go, so check that out if you want to know how we came to our decisions and why we picked the playlist tracks we did.
Our ranking and track picks are a compromise of our two different personal opinions, and of course we have to consider the Jeffrey Rulebook, it is also only a snapshot in time, so don’t take them too seriously! But do please comment below with your picks.
See below for the full list:
Vantage Point (2008)
After Pocket Revolution, dEUS settled into a new line-up with only Tom Barman and Klaas Janzoons surviving from the early days. Despite recruiting indie-experimental bigwig Mauro Pawlowski (from Evil Superstars) on guitar, their sound became more mainstream with the balance of power in the band sitting almost entirely with Tommy.
The resultant album – recorded in their new Vantage Point studio in Antwerp – is good, but the eccentric organised-chaos spark that made dEUS special is absent.
Keep You Close (2011)
Keep You Close and The Following Sea were written and recorded around the same time, but released separately as they had two quite different moods. Keep You Close feels like an extension of Vantage Point, with a similar vibe and feel, but with stronger songs. The orchestral start and end don’t feel very dEUS (although they’ve always been eclectic), but the run from The Final Blast (which might have made a better opening track) to Constant Now is as strong a bunch of songs as you’ll find on any of their albums. It’s not vintage dEUS but it’s a perfectly decent album that further embeds their new more-mature sound.
The Following Sea (2012)
Slightly sharper than the two previous albums, The Following Sea is not exactly a return to the good old days, but it’s heading in the right direction. It has much higher highs, but also lower lows, than its predecessors.
The opening track, Quatre Mains, is an absolute banger (and the video is wonderful, see below), one of the best tracks of their entire career, but then we have a clanger like Girls Keep Drinking, a song that feels like an attempt to remake those wonderful early eclectic fizzers like Fell Off the Floor, Man or WCS (First Draft), but unfortunately it falls a long way short of those shiny gems.
There are interesting sniffs like The Give Up Gene and Fire Up The Google Beast Algorithm which are very much in the right direction, but they are presented as separate songs that end fairly abruptly – the beauty of dEUS’s early albums was how they formed coherent better-than-the-sum-of-the-parts wholes with the songs sewn brilliantly together into a tapestry of eclectic audio beauty. By contrast this feels like a bunch of good songs plonked onto a disk rather than crafted into an album.
Surprisingly (and annoyingly) this is their most recent album, meaning they have been absent from the studio for a decade. They have been active though, playing live and working on side projects, including Barman’s excellent jazzy TaxiWars.
Worst Case Scenario (1994)
dEUS hit us with their wonderful first album back in 1994 and the world was never the same again. Suddenly Belgian Indie wasn’t just credible, it was cool! It sounds like an up-to-date indie-jazzy Frank-Zappa-meets-Captain-Beefheart-meets-Tom-Waits and consequently is an eccentric, varied, brilliant and slightly inaccessible masterpiece.
Already cracks were showing in the line-up and soon after the album’s release, Rudy Trouvé (guitar, replaced by Craig Ward) left to focus on his own stuff (check out the wonderful Dead Man Ray, The Love Substitutes and Kiss My Jazz). He was missed, his jazz sensibilities were key in ensuring the chaotic sound was still held together and remained structured and coherent.
Pocket Revolution (2005)
The first post-hiatus album had a difficult birth, with both Craig Ward and Danny Mommens leaving the band during the recording (replaced by Mauro Pawlowski (from Evil Superstars) and Alain Gevaert respectively). This suggests a tug of war over the sound of the band, with Barman’s desire for a more straightforward accessible sound winning out. Despite this, Pocket Revolution managed to continue where The Ideal Crash left off and is a very fine album indeed – and it’s great to see a Rudy Trouvé album cover in similar style to the first two albums (see below).
This is also the first album to feature Stéphane Misseghers on drums – it’s not clear exactly what happened, but drummer Jules de Borgher didn’t seem to make it back from hiatus – there are rumours that he was fired for being unreliable, but these are only rumours.
Craig Ward can be found in various side projects, including The Love Substitutes alongside Rudy Trouvé and Mauro Pawlowski, and the hiatus also produced the excellent Magnus albums, a collaboration between Tom Barman and CJ Bolland.
This is probably our favourite dEUS album cover:
In a Bar, Under the Sea (1996)
Their second album is an absolute gem. Similar to its predecessor, but a little more structured and accessible, it is peak dEUS with the influential Stef Kamil Carlens still on bass and backing vocals (although not for long) and guitarist Craig Ward having joined for Rudy Trouvé (although Trouvé had recorded some material for the album). It seems that Ward had a slightly stronger influence on the songwriting, adding a little more coherence and toning down the jazz-weird. This makes for a perfect-storm of interestingly-odd yet enjoyably-accessible – it is basically joint top with The Ideal Crash, but we had to make a decision, and for some reason we put The Ideal Crash first, John is regretting that now, but Gordon was quite insistent.
The Ideal Crash (1999)
dEUS was always going to be too small to contain two such brilliantly inventive characters as Tom Barman and Stef Kamil-Carlens for the long-term, and sadly – but inevitably – Stef left to do his own thing (Moondog Jr, which became Zita Swoon, then the collective Zita Swoon Group, and also check out his solo stuff which is magnificent). He had different musical ideas (saying dEUS were too loud) and if Tom’s comments in the Time Is The State Of My Jeans film are anything to go by, he was less enamoured with the rock’n’roll lifestyle and happy just doing his own thing in Antwerp (Danny Mommens, from Tom’s side-project tENERIFE, replaces him on bass).
Anyway, this meant that the weirder more-interesting chaotic elements of the sound are turned down, and we are faced with a more straightforward beast, packed full of cracking melodies and tense guitary wonders, and thus it is an absolute belter.
Instant Street remains a firm favourite from the live show (see below for a good video of said cracker, with Mauro on guitar, who I think does it best). It’s also lovely to see Rudy Trouvé appear as a policeman in the official video of the same song.
(Tom and Stef remain pals, and here is Tom rehearsing Thinking About You All The Time with Stef and Zita Swoon, and here at the aftershow party).