Review: Dutch Uncles – Out of Touch in the Wild
Published on January 24th, 2013 | Jonny Abrams
Dutch Uncles don’t sound like your typical Manchester band, but then that’s probably because they’re from Stockport. This non-typically-Manchester-sounding-anyway troupe caught the ear with their spikily melodic and lightly eccentric 2011 album Cadenza, and Out of Touch in the Wild sees them up their game to something that feels strangely like Hot Chip – largely due to the similarity of Duncan Wallis’s vocals to those of Alexis Taylor*, it has to be said – engaged in an urgent race against time.
(* There’s also a bit of Ben Gibbard in there.)
Unlike with Hot Chip, the more idiosyncratic sides of Dutch Uncles are channelled into the structure and layout of their deceptively complex songs, and we say ‘deceptively’ because there is throughout a winning way with faintly sinister melody the likes of which Everything Everything could turn into a major strength if only they’d knuckle down and focus on being a great band as opposed to merely a great distraction. This combination of strong melodic sensibility and a slightly math-y approach makes Dutch Uncles a more rewarding proposition than most of their peers, even if the ingredients could have done with a little more mixing up.
Whether the pervasiveness of marimbas and muted disco-funk guitar holds the album back or helps establish a crucial continuity remains to be decided upon; that it does feel like one continuous journey, though, is more conceivably a triumph of vision when the music itself unfurls as naturally and gloriously as it does here.
When bright synth glowworms rain down over verlapping vocal parts on “Bellio”, it really is quite lovely, while “Fester” is a key early indicator of the unsettled energy welling up from within, jittery in a funky Talking Heads kind of way and packing the kind of big, sad keys that might’ve featured on The Twilight Sad’s Andrew Weatherall-assisted album of last year No One Can Ever Know.
Elsewhere, “Phaedra” cranks up the absorbing level of urgency before alleviating it with a piano coda reminiscent of Talk Talk’s classic LP Spirit of Eden, while tangential six-minute closer “Brio” fires call-and-response guitar and piano up at the strings floating overhead like, ooh we don’t know, some kind of velvet jet.
All in all, Dutch Uncles have turned in another engaging and welcome challenge for the indie-disco kids to get their heads around, but we reckon there should be even better yet to come from them as they expand their palette.
Rocksucker says: Four Quails out of Five!
Out of Touch in the Wild is out now on Memphis Industries. For more information, please visit dutchuncles.co.uk