- 2 x LP
dEUS have never really had a philosophy. Never wanted one. Yet they’ve remained true to certain guiding principles. “You don’t want to repeat yourself, but you have your style,” says Tom Barman, frontman and genial leader of the cult Belgian art-rockers. “You want to try new stuff and just react to whatever feels fresh at the time.” So it is with ‘How To Replace It’, their eighth studio album and first in ten years; distinctive and inventive, melodic yet defiantly off-kilter. Unique. And above all, unmistakably dEUS.
Even that title – mysterious, oblique – scans as being fantastically unknowable, hinting at a deep sense of wisdom. “I like the openness of it,” says Barman. Follow the lyrical clues, and you might conclude “it” concerns romance and ageing; squint a little, and you might alight on modernity being the malaise described. Either way, fueling intrigue is by design. “It’s a question, it’s an answer…it’s up to the listener to decide.”
It's also Barman at his enigmatic best. After ten long years, you’d think he has much to draw on, but the truth is somewhat more mundane; they’ve never really been away. “Life took over,” says Barman of the gap from 2012’s Following Sea till now, “but we never stopped working, never stopped playing live.” There was the Selected Songs 1994-2014 compilation to put together, the Soft Electric tour, numerous festival appearances, and anniversaries to celebrate – their magnum opus, The Ideal Crash, turned 20; a 65-date European tour for it took up over a year in preparation and execution.
“Things always take longer than you think,” he says laconically, “but this was not a ten-year project.” It wasn’t even four years either, and although concrete plans were laid down in 2018 – calendars cleared, sessions booked – there was rehearsing and touring The Ideal Crash, Barman’s photo exhibitions, and, of course, the pandemic. But the band’s way of working changed too. For the previous two records, jam sessions were long and structured – five days a week, noon till 6pm – with songs being moulded and developed over time. But for the How To Replace It sessions, Barman shook things up. “We had short, explosive jams. Very concentrated,” he says. “And when I heard something, I’d retreat with our engineers and do the heavy lifting. That’s how the album came together.”
Twenty-eight years after their debut record, dEUS remain indie stalwarts, pushing ever forward, endlessly curious and creatively restless.