1999. I was living in theNetherlandsduring my second year at University. Like all good students I was careless, possibly to the point of wreckless, with my money spending way too much on my one true love – music. Some of my favourite albums were bought in the little alternative music shop in Nijmegen, the city where I spent my 4 months studying. In 4 months I more than trebled the number of cds that I arrived in theNetherlandswith incurring the wrath of my parents along the way. It was my first time living away from home and looking after my finances was not really a strong point. It still isn’t if I’m honest although for very different reasons than when I was 19.
Amongst those records purchased were ‘Come On Die Young’ by Mogwai, ‘Figure 8’ by Elliott Smith and ‘Mule Variations’ by Tom Waits. The one that sticks in my mind the most though is ‘The Ideal Crash’ by Belgian art rockers dEUS. My first steps in to the world of dEUS came through their debut record ‘Worst Case Scenario’. Picking up a copy of this record back inBritainand trying to decide whether to give it a go I was sold by one of the press comments attached to the front. It stated ‘this is art wank – but since I like art and I like wanking I like this’…or something to that effect. I was sold there and then. So different was this record to anything I’d encountered to this point that I think my initial reaction was one of confusion. I liked it, yet I feared it. It was challenging, to say the least but moments like ‘Hotel Lounge’ served to suggest that there was a masterpiece within these Belgians, just waiting to get out. ‘In A Bar, Under the Sea’ did much to suggest they were getting closer to it. And in 1999 they achieved it, in the form of ‘The Ideal Crash’.
Strange thing to be talking about in 2012, a record that was released in 1999, I know. But ever since that record I really have struggled with dEUS. Each album since that record has failed to deliver the same level of quality. Each album has brought with it anticipation, hope and belief that this time they would recreate what made them so special on their first 3 records. And each time they fail. And I really cannot put my finger on why. Every album since has had some real quality tracks on it. But the albums as a whole have never delivered, for me. It’s weird but I think with the first 3 records they had freedom to be dEUS and to develop who they were. After the success of ‘The Ideal Crash’ though I think they have spent too much time thinking about what makes them dEUS and not just doing what they want to do. The results have been patchy at best. I have seen them twice live in this time and they remain an amazing band with energy, attitude and creativity in abundance. But I doubt that they will ever reach the level of that stunning third record that made me fall in love with them in 1999.
This has all formed in my mind because their new record ‘FollowingSea’ is out on 8 June. I have heard the opening track and once again my hopes, expectations and anticipation have been raised. I sincerely hope that this time I am not disappointed like the times before. Regardless, I know I will keep buying their records and hoping that they will one day rediscover what it was that made them so special all those years ago. For me they remain one of the most challenging and interesting bands of their time. Perhaps now is no their time. But I’ll still keep going back to those first 3 records when I need to remember what alternative, challenging, original music is all about.