dEUS - Keep You Close - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

dEUS - Keep You Close

by Andy Brown Rating:8 Release Date:2011-10-03

With Worst Case Scenario (1994) and In a Bar, Under the Sea (1996) Belgiums' Deus created two of the most challenging, baffling and down right brilliant alternative rock records of the early 90s. In those formative years Deus' music combined the eccentricity of Captain Beefheart and Tom Waits with jazz, rock and avant-garde influences. In 1999 they refined their sound and released, arguably, their finest album, The Ideal Crash. If you haven't heard tracks such as 'The Magic Hour' and 'Sister Dew' from the aforementioned masterpiece, you're really missing out. If Deus were to break away from 'cult success' and 'critical acclaim' and finally enter the mass consciousness then it was with the release of this album. Instead, to the dismay of loyal fans, they disappeared off the musical map altogether.

Deus would return, however, years later, with 2005 album Pocket Revolution and 2008s Vantage Point. These albums showcased a kind of Deus mk 2, demonstrating a more controlled, less wilfully eccentric sound. These smoother textures and new-found subtleties didn't lead to worldwide superstardom or widespread recognition but Deus continued to enjoy rave reviews and, yes, cult success. A few years later and they're back with us again with sixth album proper Keep You Close.

The album opens with the dramatic flair of the title track with its xylophone line and lush string section immediately drawing you in. There's a flawless vocal performance from bandleader Tom Barman too as he croons, "Just like on the day we met, you pulling on me like a cigarette" in the middle of the orchestral storm. 'The Final Blast' starts with a pulsating bass line and a seedy, late night feel as Barman coos and whispers his way through the oncoming darkness. Night finally falls with the rather brilliant 'Dark Sets in'. It's here that Deus show their teeth a little with an urgent rhythm section, fuzzy guitars and bombastic chorus. If you're a fan of the high-drama currently being produced by bands like Arcade Fire and The Besnard Lakes, you'll find plenty to enjoy here.

'Twice' is a subtle, gently seething ballad with Barman straining his voice on the chorus as he pines, "Twice I set my mind on you and twice I gave you nothing". The albums a cracking listen but it's not without its flaws. 'Ghosts' is a slightly misguided attempt at something a bit chirpier while the stumbling, shimmering 'Constant Now' is let down a little by its 80s-tastic, funky-licious chorus. Having said that, these tracks might grow on me given time.

Thankfully, this uncertainty comes to an abrupt end with the beautiful 'The End of Romance'. Sticking to what they've become so wonderfully adept at, 'The End of Romance' smoulders with a sense of both sinister unease and wide-eyed wonder. It's one of the finest things they've done in recent years and the strongest argument for Deus continuing to be an exciting musical prospect. 'Second Nature' swoons, croons and intrigues in equal measure - an elegantly impressive piece of music. The orchestral themes and sense of melodrama running through the album are brought to a fitting conclusion with closing track 'Easy'. Barman whispers into yr headphones, "When your heart is wilting and your chips are down, when your soul is pining for a friendly sound" and you know you're listening to something rather special. It's a suitably impressive track to end the album with.

Polished, ambitious, coherent, deeply atmospheric and mature, Keep You Close is a reassuringly great record. It doesn't quite match the uninterrupted brilliance of The Ideal Crash and it's certainly not a return to the schizophrenic sounds of their first two albums, but Keep You Close is still a defiantly strange, sinister and, at times, magical listen. If cult success means bands can produce albums as good as this well over a decade-and-a-half into their career then perhaps mainstream acceptance is overrated.

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