Album Reviews

dEUS – How To Replace It

(PIAS) UK release date: 17 February 2023

A band who can easily meld maverick experimentation with more polished alt-rock melodies, the Belgians’ first album in 11 years is typically crammed full of ideas

Deus - How To Replace It Next year marks the 30th anniversary of the release of dEUS‘ debut album Worst Case Scenario. Yet their new album is just their eighth record, thanks to line-up changes and lengthy hiatuses – just two original members, Tom Barman and Klaas Janzoons remain from that original incarnation – and follows 11 years after their last effort Following Sea.

It’s impressive though how effortlessly How To Replace It just sounds like a typical dEUS album. The Belgians always been a band who can easily meld maverick experimentation (a violin was part of their sound long before the likes of Black Country, New Road popularised it) with more polished alt-rock melodies, and this latest album is typically crammed full of ideas.

There’s a marching drum beat to the opening title track, and it creates a momentum that just sounds huge – as the song progresses, there’s chanted vocals, and horns are added until there’s a swirling instrumental cacophony by the end. It’s quite the re-introduction to a band who have always relentlessly ploughed their own path.

Barman’s tendency to slip into spoken word vocals means he sometimes sounds like a whole range of artists – from his beloved Tom Waits at times, to Somewhere Down The Crazy River-era Robbie Robertson at others. On Dream Is A Giver, he even sounds a dead ringer for the late great Maxi Jazz from Faithless.

How To Replace It certainly sits at the more accessible end of the dEUS scale. There’s less instrumental noodling than previously, and tracks like Faux Bamboo and Never Get You High are immediately likeable rockers. The smooth 1989 even takes a detour into yacht rock territory, while Must Have Been New has an insistent drive to it.

Yet, as is usually the case with dEUS, there’s always a whole load of oddness lurking agreeably under the surface. Why Think It Over sounds pretty standard indie-funk until the unmistakable sound of a load of sitars suddenly appear, and there’s even a nod to the Beastie Boys when Barman occasionally exclaims “Hold it now!”. Man Of The House is another track filled with creativity, with the fierce percussion and howling guitar doing battle with each other.

At 55 minutes, it’s arguably too long, and some of the less memorable tracks could probably be filed away without taking too much away from the album. Yet only dEUS could end an album with Le Blues Polaire, a six minute song sung entirely in French that switches from dirty, grimy guitar rock to hypnotic drone several times. It’s a typically unconventional way to end a dEUS album and even if they don’t always hit their mark, there’s enough here to hope they don’t embark on another long hiatus.

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More on dEUS
dEUS – How To Replace It
dEUS – Following Sea
dEUS – Keep You Close