Review Summary: Proving themselves worthy of their band name once again
Keep You Close is not the best dEUS album ever. That title still goes to 1995's In A Bar, Under The Sea. But can you really compare the two albums? After all, since dEUS re-emerged to the scene in 2005 (whilst recording Pocket Revolution) after a hiatus of 6 years, they haven't been the same dEUS as on their critically acclaimed 90's albums. "Old dEUS" was a band of youngsters experimenting, trying to find a sound of their own, amidst all their peers and influences. "Old dEUS" was also a band that was constantly changing, swapping band members, experiencing internal turmoil. To an extent, that was partially the reason why their early stuff was (and still is) so great. The magnificent chaos in some of their old material was the result of this internal turmoil. But then "old dEUS" called it quits. And with the arrival of Pocket Revolution, we got "new dEUS".
"New dEUS" is a band of experienced musicians, and now - in 2011 - they still have the same band lineup as they 'started with' in 2005. So "new dEUS" hasn't got that same internal turmoil as "old dEUS"; gone is the chaos. The greater confidence in their musical and songwriting skills means that there is less experimenting with different styles and sounds present. Many have lamented this lack of experimentation on the newer albums, but the loss of this wild "let's see what we can come up with next"-attitude brings with it a growth in the consistency department. "New dEUS" has produced a couple of really coherent albums, with a clear overall theme or sound. Their latest, Keep You Close, is no exception.
The key word on their latest effort is atmosphere. The songs are in essence straightforward rock songs (prime example being "Dark Sets In"), but a lot of attention is given to musical structure and layering of sound, coming from all the different instruments. The guitar is given the most prominent place, but on this album the guitars - for the most part - produce musical accents instead of riffs, which - in combination with the steady bass and drums - gives off a very groovy feel. Additional horns, piano, the occasional synth, xylophone and violin provide the tracks momentum and give off an orchestral feeling - though at times buried under a big pile of noise. Take opener and title track "Keep You Close" for example: it's a different song than anything they've ever done, but still has that recognizable dEUS touch. It feels very mellow and introvert, but at the same time the rhythm section on the background drives the song forwards, until it really bursts open at the finale. The album couldn't start in a better fashion. Further down the tracklist, we encounter "The End Of Romance" - a highlight among highlights. Starting very minimalist, with the spoken word vocals of singer Tom Barman perfectly complementing the soft guitar licks, until he changes to his characteristic croon and the song blossoms into one of the finest pop songs dEUS have ever done.
Next to being the singer of the band, Barman is also the primary songwriter and he has yet again come up with some impressive lyrics to accompany the music. At age 40, he's reminiscent about time, how it flies by and how the modern day world population (and he himself) deals with it.
You know the now can never last
It's just a moment lost in time
Pressing pause is time defined
Just a moment lost on you
Pressing play is all that you can do
You're living a constant now again
Barman's delivery is calm and gentle this time around. He's almost just talking himself through the lyrics - with the exception of him exploding when the choruses kick in. Remember the key word? The vocals help to accentuate the relaxed feel of the songs, while also creating another layer in the song structures, thereby making the end result more dynamic as well, and a joy to listen to. On "Twice" and "Dark Sets In", he even gets help from Afghan Whigs singer Greg Dulli, who has agreed to provide guest vocals for the album. Especially on "Twice" - one of the fiercest songs on the record - the interchange between the two is rewarding.
As with all dEUS albums, Keep You Close has immediate appeal, but in essence it's a real grower album. Each consecutive listen will reward you with subtle details that keep popping up and engrain themselves in your brain. Personally, I'm at 36 listens and counting, which does say that - next to the fact that I'm obsessed - the reward is there to be found. Furthermore, the flow of this album is incredible; it's over before you know it. Keep you Close may not be the best dEUS album ever, but it's still certainly one of the finest albums to have come out this year and
one of the finest albums in the band's entire career.
The album can be listened to here:
Official band page: