Album Review: Dutch Uncles – Out of Touch in the Wild

By on Friday, 4th January 2013 at 12:00 pm
 

Ever since I started blogging a good 4 years ago, I’ve come to expect at least a good 2 years’ time lag between albums, because bands need to tour the dickens out of the first album to get as much mileage as they can before they are allowed to go back to the studio and hole up for months to plan, write and record the follow-up. Further time is spent (wasted?) moving these recording tapes back and forth between producers and mixers before the master is finally finished, and while I completely accept that good things take time, I can’t help feeling antsy about my favourite bands’ upcoming releases.

Dutch Uncles Out of Touch coverDutch Uncles’ last album length effort, ‘Cadenza’ (review here), was released on the 25th of April 2011, but in the same year I was pleasantly surprised to get a taste of even newer material live in Manchester in December 2011, and then again a couple months later at SXSW 2012. After a Great Escape panel discussion on indie labels last May 2012, I found out in a cheeky reconnaissance-type chat with co-head boss of Memphis Industries Ollie Jacob that Dutch Uncles were making good time on their next album, which suffice it to say, was way ahead of this established schedule in my head. I thought, woohoo! Then summer came and went without so much as a peep of news.

Finally in September, my waiting was finally rewarded: ‘Fester’ was announced with fanfare, available as a freebie for fans for a short time. (Watch the video below.) But I had to wait a couple more months to today, when I can tell you my thoughts on ‘Out of Touch in the Wild’ having heard the new album at last. At a spry 37 minutes, this is not an album you will be languishing over, wondering when it will stop. No, you’ll have wondered where the time has gone when the Marple boys are done with you.

If you thought the song titles on ‘Cadenza’ were mental (‘Dolli’, ‘X-O’, ‘Zalo’), get a load of those on the new album. ‘Zug Zwang’ wins the prize for the oddest here, but ‘Pondage’ is a close second. I didn’t think it was a real word, but Wikipedia asserts it has the very boffin definition of “the comparably small water storage behind the weir of a run-of-the-river hydroelectric power plant”. As the first track, it is a gentle push, a nice toe into the water with broad string orchestration and Duncan Wallis’s dream-like vocals on top of an otherwise frantic, speedy guitar line.

Speaking of the orchestration, usage of a string section is nothing new for Dutch Uncles, if you’ve been following their story since spring 2011, when ‘Cadenza’ was released. ‘Sting’, with its sweeping grandeur stuck in the ‘70s, was just a precursor to ‘Flexxin’. This carefully layered track is a catchy as hell singalong (“you can hold my hand / I feel it / you understand”) with driving drums and strings, has been picked up by none other than that ‘influential’ American music Web site my own mum has equated to a rampaging mob of reviewers, so we can expect a whole new group of people being turned on by this band’s musical charms. While I’m happy about this, I’m also mentally preparing myself for all the drunk people being irritating and yelling, “play ‘Flexxin’!” at all their future shows. Along with layered vocal effects, ‘Godboy’ uses these strings to take the band to new heights.

Another standout on the album is ‘Bellio’; glittering with disco synth and a super funky bass line, it’s my sure favourite from the bunch. ‘Fester’, getting the nod from American music blog granddaddy Stereogum, is a percussive tour de force of delivered by marimba and insistent banged piano notes. The general vibe of ‘Threads’ is similar, it’s just less obvious. The melody of ‘Nometo’ slinks around corners with Wallis’s voice slickly; the tune is the math-rock version of the lounge song: smooth, yet still eclectic. The only song that didn’t please me was ‘Phaedra’. Named after a female character with a colourful life in Greek mythology, the song itself was anything but colourful, almost dirge-like with a menacing bass undertone.

The longest track on the album, at nearly 6 minutes, is closer ‘Brio’, which I can’t decide whether it’s an ode to the Swedish toy manufacturer or not. The driving rhythm will get your toes tapping and your brain swinging from side to side like a metronome. It reminds me of the time I discovered Kraftwerk through Newton’s Apple, an American public television show’s use of ‘Ruckzuck’. Ahead of their time they were. The same could be said for Dutch Uncles. While ‘Cadenza’ had several amazing highlights (‘X-O’, ‘Fragrant’, ‘The Ink’), ‘Out of Touch in the Wild’ comes across more fully-formed and is the better of the two for a continuous listen.

9/10

Dutch Uncles’ new album ‘Out of Touch in the Wild’ is out on the 14th of January on Memphis Industries.

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4 Responses

[…] Dutch Uncles, who will be releasing their latest album ‘Out of Touch in the Wild’ (review here) on Monday; BBC Sound of 2013 nominees and Gary Barlow’s favourites Kodaline (pictured at […]

[…] indie pop will go delectably with the left-field math rock/pop of Dutch Uncles‘ new ‘Out of Touch in the Wild’. With their latest adventurous album ‘Collections’ failing to impress critics, Delphic will be […]

[…] off their January 2013-released album ‘Out of Touch in the Wild’ (it’s great; read the review here). It’s a biologist’s dream. Including this one. Watch it […]

[…] was setting up. To say I was upset by the turn of events, especially after loving the new album ‘Out of Touch in the Wild’, is putting it mildly. I was on the verge of tears. But, when in Liverpool, you carry on. I […]

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