So two decades into their career, and six albums down the track Belgium’s best kept secret finally make their way down to Melbourne. Early Deus is incredible, as grunge hit in the early 90’s, here were this band deeply in thrall of all things Americana, yet forging their own distinct identify, melding pop, with jazz, with guitar music in a strangely compelling way. Their first two albums are peerless, both 1994’s Worst Case Scenario and 1996’s In A Bar Under The Sea contain pretty much everything you need to know about music in terms of performance, composition and production. From here the band split into numerous different directions, and the subsequent four albums have been patchy at best. These days the five piece contains only two original members, violinist Klaas Janzoons and guitarist and chief songwriter Tom Barman.
Perhaps in Australia the Deus secret is a little too well kept, because the Corner only ever reached about three quarters full with perhaps an older median age than many recent shows, suggesting that many, like the writer, were seemingly keen to relive the soundtrack to the misspent years of their youth. Deus didn’t come here in the 90’s, which may account for why the older tunes of their first two albums relieved such rapturous responses. Even the unassuming jaunty Little Arithmetic’s from In A Bar Under The Sea, still enjoyed fists in the air and earnest sing-along’s. Yet it was songs like the literary melancholy of Hotel Lounge where you could hear the power and invention that seemed effortless to the band in the mid 90’s. They returned for an encore with Theme From Turnpike, a little play at being Tom Waits via Bruce Springsteen, and the band felt somehow freer, jumping around, clearly having a great time. “This is the last show of the tour, we’re on a plane tomorrow, so we’re going upstairs for a drink,“ they offer later. They dedicated the indie funk of Fell off the Floor to Adam Yauch, and to finish, they offered up Suds and Soda, a song we never thought we’d hear in Australia, and it was hair on the back of the neck incredible, particularly during the outro with Barman rapping “So whatcha whatcha whatcha want?”
Whilst for many of us it was about marking something off a list, and as much as we tried to pigeonhole them Deus weren’t simply a nostalgia act. The injection of new blood has been an injection of life.
Bob Baker Fish