Now that Antwerp’s dEUS are onto their sixth album, their career splits very neatly into two halves – fitting for the authors of a song entitled Little Arithmetics (arguably their best). Three albums have been made either side of a six year hiatus which saw vocalist Tom Barman directing a film and teaming up with CJ Bolland. Despite these gap years and multiple line-up changes (only Barman and Klaas Janzoons remain from the original group) not a whole lot has changed in their fuzzy and charming output.
Keep You Close opens with the Manic Street Preachers-tinged swooping strings, guitar crash, catchy xylophone lines and hushed vocals of the title track. The lopsided shuffle of The Final Blast and edgy spoken verse and apocalyptic chorus of Dark Sets In maintain a high standard. The latter song is one of two featuring the emotive vocals of Greg Dulli of The Afghan Whigs, The Twilight Singers and The Gutter Twins. He makes a great foil to the more relaxed Barman, adding a widescreen atmosphere to Twice. The pairing works so well, it’s surprising to hear that it came about by complete chance when Dulli was on a visit to Antwerp and spontaneously popped in.
On the instantly accessible Ghost, dEUS come close to their finest pop moments of the 1990s circa In A Bar, Under The Sea. This is how a band like Travis could sound if they not only wrote nice tunes but were Belgian and quirky. Yet after this strong opening half, the album struggles to maintain the same level of interest over the uneasy feel of Second Nature and the dramatic distant pianos and glitchy noises of Easy. Apparently, they uncharacteristically developed Keep You Close via jamming sessions in the studio and road tested tracks at live gigs and festivals over a six month period rather than the more typical structured writing approach they adopted for previous album Vantage Point.
This organic, looser feel becomes more apparent during the closing stages and was a deliberate attempt by Barman to achieve a warmer, personal tone; it’s not necessarily a bad thing, so long as the songs still stand up. A whole host of songs were discarded as they were deemed unsuitable for the album, but will still be released as extras in other formats.
If they were sticking closely to the mathematical symmetry of their career thus far, dEUS should be due another break now. For such a consistently strong band that would be a shame. But, then again, perhaps it’s time for a spot of reinvention.