Lose and Draw

Touring fears aside, Ward illuminated some of the questions from the previous evening, specifically the reference to Peckinpah. "That song's a real collaborative effort," he said, explaining that the lyrics are utter nonsense. Nonetheless, the title is hardly meaningless. According to Ward, it refers to making violent art (or any art prone to censorship) and the repercussions it can have on one's own family. I suppose it could've been called "G.G. Allin's Boy," but that lacks Deus' knack for poetic image.

Ward says the band relished the opportunity to open for a guaranteed-draw act like Morphine their first time out in America. Being rushed by all of two or three people after such a show at least is better than the "totally demoralizing" 20-person crowd at their early March performance in Providence, R.I. Judging from the tiny crowd at the Hotel Utah, Deus should cultivate their relationship with Morphine and hope for another opening slot.

At 9:15 Barman broke from a conversation with two Dutch kids to ask no one in particular where the fuck everyone was. An hour later, he must have wondered the same thing. Thirty-or-so people, apparently a mixture of fans and Urban Outfitters, moved up to the front of the stage.

The first few songs were as discordant as those from the previous night, but after three numbers the band hit its pop stride. Later, bassist Mommens seized a moment between songs. "This song's called 'I Wanna Fuck This Shit Out of You,' " he announced before a breathy little bass-driven solo tune, to which his bandmates responded, "Danny's so subtle." His little gaffe and his bandmates' response is a clue as to what makes Deus' sound so complex: The band members act like they just don't belong together.

But creativity often flourishes in conflict. Sometimes, like on the poppy "Little Arithmetics" (Deus' best shot at a "She Don't Use Jelly," despite the dangerously depressing subject matter of insanity), Barman's voice and musical sensibility stood out. But for every such song, there's a "Suds and Soda" -- a tune that hinges on an epic riff of sawing violin. Onstage, each member of the band plays something extraneous: There're go-nowhere guitar notes from a Leonard Cohen song, a massive blast of power chords, stadium-style drums, and a hippie-jam bass line. And the way the two vocalists trade lines in the main verse is near-exhilarating, beaten only by the manner in which they sing the chorus together. It's one of those songs that can leave a listener on the floor.

Supposedly "Suds and Soda" was a hit single in Europe, and it deserves to be one here. But that will probably take a few more tours. Before the show, Ward said the band's up for it, even hinting that Lollapalooza figureheads have offered the quintet a gig on the strength of critical accounts of performances in New York and at the South by Southwest music conference. When I said how disappointing the Lollapalooza bill looks, Ward smiled. He knows his band can outshine Korn. "I welcome a bad bill.

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