Sunday, June 3, 2012

Some small thoughts on the new dEUS

dEUS are a band that, in some ways, just can't win. They're from continental Europe, which means that they're invisible to mainstream ( read "American") pop culture. They don't make really esoteric music, so hipsters can't use them as some sort of totem to designate hos sophisticated they are. In fact, it's kind of charming how some UK fans try to "hip them up"- I even have seen, more than once, Drowned in Sound refer to them as "Europe's Sonic Youth", and they're nothing of the sort.  They had a mid-career shake up, going from playing Zappa and Beefheart influenced Alt Rock to a much more straightforward Alt pop sound, which split the fans up, further. So, despite playing more ear pleasing music than 99% of either the pop charts or the Indie blogger favorites on Twitter, they're a cult act.
Here's how they win, anyway- they play better music. I can only relate them to the top echelons of pop and rock music, even though they don't really sound like any of them.  They aren't really a "RIYL" type band. Instead, I hear little bits of everything from Beefheartian skronk, to Brel and Bacharach pop to Afghan Whigs styled soul punk, to doomy bits of Sabbathian blues metal, but all blended nicely into a very fine grained lager.  So, if you're discerning, but have a broad palette, dEUS is for you, even if they don't sound like your other favorite acts.
So, they're shaking things up, again. They're getting a bit more spontaneous, which is a return to the methodology of dEUS mk1, but they're keeping the aesthetics of Mk2- this is still fantastic.  See, I wasn't a fan until mk 2, because the mk 1 improvisations seemed unfinished, rough, and awkward. Mk 2, even when they're a bit looser, as this release is, still hew closely to an aesthetic- no abrupt changes, no awkward bridges, no crowding, all of which marred mk1. Instead, this reminds me of beatnik jazz, only in a rock format. Superlative players taking a familiar form and trying to move that form into an idiosyncratic direction. They're not like a bad jam band choogling along while one player at a time plays scales in E- instead it's a real coherent group following the melody to where it leads, with a half drunken poet reacting in real time. If that doesn't interest you, I think it should.
So, song by song, but quickly, you haven't got all day-
Quatre Mains- The Edge of Seventeen meets Bauhaus playing french bop- the title references two people playing the same instrument- you can guess what the lyrics are about from there.
Sirens- a more Cowboy reading of 'Ghosts' with a lonesome echo.
Hidden Wounds- early 1980's dub post punk as a soundtrack to war stories. Striking, in every sense.
Girls Keep Drinking- Skeletal No Wave Funk meets Captain Beefheart spinning Minneapolis R and B and grinning on an inside joke
Nothings- A R Kane sings a mash note in zero G
The Soft Fall- "Security'( yes, the American title) era Peter Gabriel plays a summer pop song, and drinks wine coolers- as happy as can be.
Crazy about You- Envelope Filter Funk meets Hootie folk pop with a tequila twist.
The Give Up Gene- Stark Beefheart realizations meets Morse code Bill Laswell cocktail hour.
Fire Up the Google Beast Algorithm- Stream of consciousness gets absolutely dangerous
One Thing about Waves- Greg Dulli forcing Pelican to play soulful doom rock.

That's as close as I can explain. Hope I didn't use more obscure references than Dennis Miller on an University of Alexandria research bender....

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