They haven't stepped back into safe, tried-and-tested territory. There's some new ideas on the album and most are executed with conviction
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Manchester’s indie prog-gers Dutch Uncles have upped the tempo and laid out interesting ideas on their fifth album ‘Big Balloon’, out on 17th February.
Opening with excellent single ‘Big Balloon’, the title track shows that the band are still sticking to their trademark sound of off-beat time signatures and punchy pop beats. However, the four-piece have reintroduced more guitars on this record, a step-back to their debut album and a contrast to their last release – 2015’s ‘O Shudder’ – which was more synth-heavy.
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This isn’t to say they’ve stepped back into safe, tried-and-tested territory, though. There’s some new ideas on the album and most are executed with conviction. ‘Big Balloon’ certainly has a pulse throughout, with an almost-hyperactive energy that really drives the first few tracks – but begins to tire towards the second half. The third track ‘Combo Box’ is memorable for its inventive and darting bassline from guitarist Robin Richards (who also writes most of the songs). The harsh funk track is kicked off with a disjointed arpeggio on a lone piano, gradually building into a groove-filled chorus with soaring synth soundscapes that wouldn’t feel out of place on a dancefloor.
‘Achameleon’ is an oddball ballad with fewer instruments, and lyrics to match: “Oh, but do I beep at a bone? Cause I can be here longer?” The strings do a good job of emulating the techno sounds on the rest of album, but the song doesn’t really go anywhere special. This rather lacklustre halfway point on the 10-track album is followed by the return of manic drum beats and syncopated rhythms on ‘Hiccup’, a classic Dutch Uncles sound with hooky choruses and pristine rhythms.
‘Oh Yeah’ keeps up the fast pace while feeling more intentional, driving itself forward from chorus to chorus with another slick bassline that rumbles beneath vocalist Duncan Wallis’ distinctive tones.
It’ll please the current fans and might even convert some new ones, but there’s nothing particularly standout about this album – save for two of its three already-released singles.
‘Big Balloon’ is out on 17th February viaMemphis Industries. The full track-listing is…
Tour Dates… 18 Feb – Manchester, Low Four Studio, Piccadilly Records Out Store
20 Feb – Nottingham, Rough Trade In Store
21 Feb – London, Rough Trade East In Store
22 Feb – Bristol, Rise In Store
01 March – Edinburgh, Electric Circus
02 March – Newcastle, The Cluny
03 March – Leeds, The Wardrobe
04 March – Nottingham, Bodega
06 March – Birmingham, Hare and Hounds
07 March – Sheffield, The Plug
08 March – Oxford, O2 Academy2
09 March – Bristol, Fleece
11 March – Brighton, The Haunt
12 March – Southampton, Talking Heads
13 March – London, Village Underground
15 March – Manchester, Dancehouse Theatre
27 Jul – 30 Jul 2017 – Hertfordshire, Standon Calling Festival