Seven years is a pretty long time to let lapse between albums. The last we heard from Belgian’s dEUS was the 1999 effort The Ideal Crash, which some dubbed their best album. Being a little scarce stateside, that album didn’t make much of a splash without an American distributor, making the space between albums nine years here, the last record of theirs released here being 1997’s In a Bar, Under the Sea, a fun and twisted amalgamation of post-grunge danciness and Captain Beefheart-inspired freakouts that most critics here said was their real best album. Still, in all that time, most Yankee ears went without hearing the band, which is a shame. They were one of the more unusual and surprisingly delightful bands of the ’90s.
As the Wrens have taught us, however, it’s never too late to put out another record. And dEUS took just about as much time to give us Pocket Revolution as those Jersey latecomers did with The Meadowlands. This record, however, is a lot different than their previous gift to the States. No longer echoing Eric Drew Feldmann’s Magic Band touches, dEUS has taken a slightly more straightforward rock approach, albeit one that emphasizes spaced-out riffs, epic song lengths and an all around psychedelic haze. If Mercury Rev wrote more songs like “Young Man’s Stride” or Radiohead more songs like “My Iron Lung,” this is what either band would sound like.
Part of the reason that dEUS sounds a little different this time around might be due to the lineup shifts that occurred in the past few years. Longtime members Tom Barman and Klaus Janzoons are still at the helm, yet the current incarnation of the band includes members of Belgian compatriots Soulwax as well as musicians from Chris Whitley’s band. And though things may not quite be the same, dEUS still rocks, and they have an impressive set of songs to share on Pocket Revolution.
Seven-minute opener “Bad Timing” is instantly awe-inspiring, a lengthy, pounding rock song that follows one singularly dissonant and melodic riff throughout the course of the song. The first single “7 Days 7 Nights” follows, a decidedly dreamier pop affair, and a gorgeous one at that. One reminder of the good old days is “What We Talk About,” a funky, feedback washed strutter that would have easily fit in on In A Bar, Under the Sea. The smoky cool title track is a hushed gem immersed in haunting ambience, which ascends into a soulful, rockin’ choir-sung climax.
The band is at their most rocking in “Cold Sun of Circumstance,” which recalls a less robotic and political Primal Scream, caught somewhere between XTRMNTR and Give Out But Don’t Give Up. Barman even affects a Gillespie-like rasp in his sing-speak. And at their most spaced-out, of course, they’re paying homage to the great psych-jazz astronaut Sun Ra in “Sun Ra.” Even when giving the nod to a freaky jazz great, however, the dEUS knows how to layer their sounds into a fairly cohesive package, and a pretty loud, manic rock show at that.
It’s a little curious that dEUS is back in the US after such a long time, particularly when it didn’t make a whole lot of sense for them to be released on a major out here in the first place. Yet here we are again, and oddly, it seems to make more sense this time around. Their sound is more cohesive, accessible, and no less arty and weird. Without compromising any of their vision, dEUS have produced an album that may finally see them garnering the American audience that they deserve.
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.