CULTURE

Belgium’s favorite sons return with an album and tour after long break

Probably the most popular rock band to have emerged from continental Europe over the past decade or so, Belgian act dEUS is set to return to Greece for three shows this week after a lengthy absence, both in terms of concerts and album releases. It was a dynamic arrival by the band back in 1994 with an excellent debut album, 1994’s «Worst Case Scenario,» which combined intense rock’n’roll energy with a willingness to explore. At this time, dEUS may not have filled the Rodon club, where the Belgian act had played its first ever Greek show, but its signal had beamed out loud and clear by the follow-up release, 1997’s «In a Bar, Under the Sea,» which helped expand the Belgian combo’s following here for sold-out performances at the same venue. Like its predecessor, samples used for the album served to indicate where this Belgian band was coming from, while also highlighting a desire to do something with these roots, rather than remain reverential. Acts sampled by dEUS for their first two albums included Frank Zappa, Don Cherry, and Charles Mingus. Fans interested in finding out more about the Belgian band’s formative period – as well as having a good time – should consider visiting the Decedance club in downtown Athens (69 Voulgaroktonon Street) tonight, a favorite haunt for the band whenever in Athens. The club will host a pre-show tribute party featuring music by dEUS, the act’s various splinter groups, as well as other artists cited as influences, among them Sonic Youth, the Velvet Underground, Captain Beefheart, Tom Waits and Beck. The group had begun as a covers band playing Violent Femmes and Velvet Underground classics in the early ’90s before eventually beginning to write and record its own brand of eclectic music. Returning to its recording activity, dEUS returned with a third album, «The Ideal Crash,» not long after the release of «In a Bar, Under the Sea.» Then came a long absence that was broken by the band’s most recent release, this year’s «Pocket Revolution,» which carries on in the vein of its predecessor. It was a strained period for dEUS in the lead up to «The Ideal Crash,» which probably prompted the need for an extended break. «The year 1998 was almost a nightmare. Everything – and I mean everything – that could go wrong went wrong. No matter if it was in music or in my private life,» frontman and co-songwriter Tom Barman remarked not long after the album’s release. «The album just didn’t seem to go anywhere. It was really difficult. We kept changing and changing and just never seemed to be able to finish it. On top of it all, I was always busy falling for the wrong women. To claim that it wasn’t a good year would be the understatement of the year.»  The act’s wide stylistic range has tended to prove challenging for certain critics. In an older interview, when it was suggested that the band’s work could be classified as avant-garde, Barman did not hesitate to contravene. «Avant-garde? I’d never call us or our music avant-garde. No, definitely not. Maybe we’re slightly extravagant, but I think we’re well within the range that is pop. Yes, I think we’re definitely to be seen in the context of pop,» he said. This discrepancy, has, in a way reflected the band’s inconsistent appeal in various markets, ranging from pop-star to fringe status. Barman has not hesitated to try to offer explanations which have tended to focus on record company marketing strategies. «Our concerts and tours are sold out, but somehow we don’t seem to sell enough albums anywhere else. I don’t think that’s something we mess up; I think the record company messes up there. They’re not very supportive abroad. We don’t get enough promotion. I think it’s their job to take care of the airplay, the marketing and the promotion. It can’t be that we’re popular in the Benelux countries and once we cross the border – zap – nothing happens,» Barman commented in an interview coinciding with the release of «The Ideal Crash.» Not surprisingly, the band has had several run-ins with its record label over the years. The band opened its current series of dates last night in Lisbon, and continues tonight for a second Portuguese show in Porto, which, according to the act’s official website, is sold out. From Portugal, the band travels here for its three Greek shows this week, then takes a sizable break and resumes its tour in late February with more shows in France, the Netherlands, Germany, and its native Belgium, where its two shows in Brussels, scheduled for early March, have already sold out. Thursday, December 8, Thessaloniki (Principle Club); Friday, December 9 and Saturday, December 10, Athens (Club 22, 22 Vouliagmenis).