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dEUS
Worst Case Scenario Mick Middles , March 5th, 2010 11:51

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I found dEUS late in life. Embarrassingly late, as it happens, just five years ago while idling through their lovely home Antwerp, a wondrous place indeed. It's a city of diamonds, Flemish eccentricity, Bohemian meandering, devastating, powerful beer and warm, welcoming locals. Piece all that together and you begin to understand where dEUS are poised in the scheme of things. Not an easy task, though, for their disparate strands of influence are legendary. In fact, this musical 'largeness' remains both their strength and, at least in terms of promotion, their weakness.

Two weeks after my Antwerp experience, I saw dEUS perform to a packed Manchester AcademyTwo. I was truly stunned by both the size and fervour of the crowd and, indeed, the entire affair resembled a Wilco gig on the same stage two years previously. There are many similarities between the two, an in-built desire to write captivating melodies and then thoroughly dismantle them… indeed, bring them crashing down in a lovely cacophony, among them. This isn't strictly true of the entire dEUS output, which is now pushing 20 years, for 1996's In a Bar, Under the Sea was a more solid, identifiable affair. But, generally speaking, this is a band who always understood the raw power of fragmentation.

And nowhere in the dEUS catalogue is this more obvious than Worst Case Scenario, their debut album on Island Records, initially released in 1994. Although one generally expects to wait 25 years for the 'deluxe edition', it is still thrilling to see such an album gaining such status. Deservedly so, for Worst Case Scenario is classic Belgian invention. A whole tumble of infectious melodies, wry vocal musings - often warmly spoken over a pulsating bass - and, in places, thrusting power-rock. It's all in here and, in many places, all within one bulging song.

The set begins with a voice married to a series of tape squeals, vaguely reminiscent of Can. This provides a simple trick of wrong-footing the casual listener as, 24 seconds later, it is replaced by the wild violin which ushers in the pounding dEUS classic, 'Suds & Soda'. This nod to The Pixies became the band's breakthrough moment, powering them into MTV land. Anyone wishing to witness the power of 'Suds & Soda', need only to glimpse the band's live compilation DVD, included here, which show an audience lost in a frenzied moshing mess. Even the band seem to stare in disbelief.

The title track - actually called 'WCS (The first draft)', probably remains the defining dEUS moment. Part shabby Bohemia, part thrusting rock, it strongly echoes Frank Zappa circa 'Hot Rats', zipping around in a series of mocking speed changes without losing that hugely infectious chorus. The Zappa - Beefheartian influences are never allowed to stray too far and, four or five songs in and you are left in no doubt that the members of DEUS (Long-haired boys, though pretty rather than proggy) all own exceptional record collections, for the ghosts cluster in the shadows. Tom Waits, Miles Davis, Pavement, The Fall, Meat Puppets. This is lo-fi dream world and it seems to offer a different perspective with each listen. 'Morticiachair' is the moment that most perfectly illustrates this while 'Right as Rain' is the album's only reflective, ambient moment. A step away from the breech.

The sleeve promises a 'gentle remastering' and, mercifully this is the case. To be honest, I couldn't separate this from the original album. However, a second CD here offers a selection of 'b-sides and rarities' that serve as a demo heavy back up, perhaps shedding a little more light on the creative process. The aforementioned DVD cherry picks from various live performances and remains fresh with repeated viewing. No so, perhaps, the documentary film 'Time is the State of my Jeans' which does glimpse the making of 'WCS' along with solid endorsement from admiring fans such as Guy Garvey and Brian Molko.

A vast multi-coloured and vibrant abstract oil-painting of a record that set the base for a unique career. Still the best place, I suggest, to find dEUS.