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Deep Blue Something – Byzantium

Remember the song "Breakfast at Tiffany’s"? I can hardly believe it was released back in 1995. Even now, you only have to hum a bar or two of its chorus, and pretty soon everyone around you will be humming or whistling, or singing along under their breath. But, as my lovely wife pointed out, it’s one of those songs where no-one can remember anything but the chorus.

The band was Deep Blue Something, and the album it came from was called Home. The one I want to review, though, is their follow-up, Byzantium. (I was just warming you up with some background…) Having loved Home, I got Byzantium as soon as I saw it in January 1998. At first I found it disappointing, because it was very different from the earlier album. They seemed to have lost some of the high-energy pop sound, and the tunes weren’t as immediately catchy.

After listening to it for a while, though, I started to appreciate the wide variety of styles and musical influences represented on the tracks. The first song, “Daybreak and a Candle End” starts off with a two-and-a-half minute intro reminiscent of latter-day Rush. “Tonight” has a chanty chorus that could have come from Chumbawamba, and “Cherry Lime Rickey” wouldn’t have sounded out of place on the Manic Street Preachers’ Generation Terrorists LP.

With 15 tracks on it, Byzantium has something for almost any mood, from the totally chilled out “Enough To Get By,” through the dance-like, driving grooves of “Dr. Crippen” and “Parkbench,” to the all-out rocking anthems “Light the Fuse” and “Becoming Light”. I think I found it hard to like the album initially precisely because it’s so varied. It doesn’t have a unified feel to it, and it isn’t “easy listening” music by any stretch of the imagination. The best classification I can come up with is “Indie Rock”, but that is still too narrow a description by far.

Although Deep Blue Something are from Texas, they have a distinctly British feel to them, and would fit well in a line-up next to groups like Dodgy, Toploader, or the Manics. They’re mostly a guitar band, but Byzantium uses some very nice horn and string arrangements as well. Lyrically, it’s is not hugely involving, but I find that the complexity and intricacy of the music itself more than makes up for this. Overall, it’s one of the most interesting albums in my collection, and one that I come back to time and again.