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Belgian bad boys cut the waffle

Long before Elbow's Guy Garvey popped up on their Vantage Point album, it was obvious that these Belgian rockers had something interesting going on.

They've been around for a long time. In the '90s they were scatter-gunned and eccentrically scatterbrained. No longer.

That original line-up has undergone radical surgery and not the nip'n'tuck variety favoured by some reprobates. Only frontman Tom Barman and keyboard-player Klaas Janzoons remain from the early days.

These guys have been playing together for about six years. You can hear it in the playing. Barman claims these nine songs were written as a band.

Certainly this version of dEUS is mellower and poppier than previously. That's not necessarily a bad thing.


Ghosts churns along with funked-up abandon, with Barman echoing a laconic hybrid of the redoubtable John Campbell of '80s' stylish cult crossover duo It's Immaterial and Big Bank Hank of The Sugarhill Gang.

Charming as this new mellow fruitfulness is, it fails to disguise the band's black heart.

The orchestral sweep, with clattering tympani, of the title track Keep You Close may well be designed to lull listeners into a false sense of contented security.

But dubbing them "the Belgian Elbow" is silly, at best, or ludicrous, at worst.

Dark Sets In is claustrophobic and layered with mad monk choral voices like something from a Carl Orff O Fortuna outtake.

It's not being disrespectful to point out the highlights here are when Barman hooks up with Greg Dulli.

The Afghan Whigs and Twilight Singers mainman has picked the scabs of an existential boogaloo for long enough to have a vocal quality equivalent to one of Francis Bacon's screaming pontiff paintings.

On the brass-stabbed single Constant Now, the pair trade selfish gutter philosophies in the manner of William Burroughs doing the hand-jive.

On Twice (spelt Twise on my copy) the combo achieves sonic fission in a meltdown of smouldering angst and bitter anxiety.

The mad-monk choir is back in evidence like a hellish jury with just "guilty" in their repertoire.

There's a surprise, like a stiletto, up the dEUS sleeve.

It's The End of Romance with Barman (is that not a cool name for a rock singer!) intoning his lyrics like a woebegone poet on an Iggy Pop jag. "The truth is, the memory of you fades . . ."

"Oh Stephanie, why do we always need a mystery?"

It's a question that those troubled by love have been asking for centuries. That doesn't mean dEUS can't beat themselves up trying to find an answer for us. HHHII