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Baker's Dozen

Bon Appétit: James Acaster's Favourite Albums
Emma Garland , February 9th, 2022 10:36

From the tiny emo scene of noughties Kettering to a love of underground hip-hop and the undying appeal of a cult classic, comedian James Acaster takes Emma Garland through the albums that have defined his life


dEUS – The Ideal Crash

It makes me feel a bit like a dad or something, liking dEUS. This album came out in 1998 and I know that because I'm not very good with knowing when stuff came out – unless it's 2016 – but this was the year I properly got into alternative music. I was 13 and buying metal and punk, and [everything I was listening to] had to be really loud and have people screaming on it. Then this dEUS album came out, and there was a song from it called ‘Everybody’s Weird’ on a free CD that came with Rock Sound. It was this electronic indie song and it had this sample of a guy saying “everybody’s weird” in a weird voice. I liked it, but I was 13 and trying to attach myself to metal, so I convinced my younger brother that he liked it so that he would buy the album instead. “This is really cool, this song,” I said. “I think you would like this.” So, he bought the album and he did love it. We’d talk about it all the time and we’d put it on loads at home. It’s still the album that I really feel that I bonded with my brother over, even though it was via this really weird way.

‘Everybody’s Weird’ wasn’t a very good representation of the album – it’s an outlier, really. The rest of it is just a very good indie rock album. I think most of my favourite albums tend to be significant for pushing a genre forward, but sometimes you find a band that manages to do the best version of a pre-existing genre and be better than everyone else – and that can be just as mystifying, if not more. Experimenting and eventually finding something new and amazing is hard, but staying within the confines of a genre and still being able to be better than everyone else and create an album that stands the test of time because your songwriting and your musicianship is that good almost boggles my brain more. Without reinventing the wheel or doing anything new, they just nail everything that they're meant to be doing as a band – and that's why it's such an amazing album. With each song, they manage to take it in a different direction and show a different side of their songwriting while keeping it all pretty consistent within the same world – apart from ‘Everybody's Weird’, which comes out of nowhere and kind of sounds like the more indie side of Air’s music.

I didn't know that it was a cult classic until it had its 20th anniversary in 2018, and there were loads of celebratory articles about it online. It's one of those albums where people either don't know it, or it's one of their favourite albums. I've never met anyone who knows dEUS and goes ‘Eh, that album wasn’t for me’. My brother wrote dEUS on his pencil case at school once, and one of the younger teachers saw it and freaked out and was really excited that he knew who dEUS were.

They were at Latitude around five years ago when I was doing the comedy tent and I was really excited to see them. They were in one of the circus tents and it was very sparsely populated. A lot of people were just laying on the grass, because it was in the afternoon. They played ‘Instant Street’, which is one of the big singles from the album, and it was clearly what everyone had come to see. When they played that, everyone laying down got up and danced. And even though I was bummed out for them in a way – because no one was watching them, and it seems a bit sucky that they were in this empty circus tent about to play this song that I know they know is an important song for the millionth time – I felt really lucky to be there. I almost preferred that there was no one really in there and I got to see this band that I love, that made this album that means a lot to me, play one of my favourite songs ever. If I’m on a car journey with people I don’t know – which happens a lot in comedy, so I usually manoeuvre myself into the position of DJ – it’s one of those songs you can put on no matter who's in the car and people will like it. It’s such a classic sounding melody that you feel like you’ve known it forever when you hear it.

So it was really great seeing them play that song in that tent in the afternoon. I can tick it off as something I’m lucky to have done in my lifetime.