3 September 2015

Dutch Uncles - O Shudder

They are back (and I am very delayed in my review); finally I have a chance to catch up with some of the releases from earlier this year.  This one was released in February 2015 and I had the review done, but laptop problems and the working being deleted has meant that this is one drifted off the map (my bad again).  However, I have made up for lost time and got this review completed for their fourth studio album.  It has been two years since the last release from the indie quartet from Marple (part of the Greater Borough of Manchester, Stockport, England), the wonderful 'Out of Touch in the Wild' (cleverly linked here) which was cruelly shunned by the Mercury Prize committee at the time and is still on rotation for me.  So it is now time to look at their brand of angular indie rock once more, here we go.....

Starting the album is the song ‘Babymaking’; the song is basically about doing the no-pants dance, these guys are young, crazy and want to follow the instruction of Marvin Gaye and get it on.  Lyrically it is just as cryptic as ever, musically it is an improved sound coming from the band; they have grown since their last record and it shows from the beginning of the album, with a confidence that comes from having new experiences and following their own sound with complete faith in their own abilities.  “Upsilon” follows on and it takes the style of Hot Chip and mixes it in with their own unique blend of indie art rock to make something as individual as the sound that LCD Soundsystem were capable of creating.  The unconventional rhyme of the verses and bridges is the norm for Dutch Uncles (as has been shown throughout their work) and once again it sounds more solid, filled with a vision of confidence and reaching as high as possible without over reaching their own limit.  The third track is “Drips” which starts with wood instruments allowing single notes to fall, a quiet percussion guiding the song, the keys and guitars slowly get added to the number until the bass takes over the song and drives it forward which goes back to the age old quest of being horny, young and in need of finding a partner; but there is a lot of guilt attached to this song and it filters through the song like a disease.  Musically, it is hypnotic and as well-crafted as always; it is also the song that gives the album its title, it is not a nice song but it is an interesting one.   “Decided Knowledge” follows on, with their indie-disco in full flow and to be honest they have gone a little Heaven 17 on this song.  It is another song which seems to be have a layer of guilt to the lyrical content, musically it is another strong number that I have come to expect from Dutch Uncles; the Heaven 17 element is different (it might not even be intentional), but the 80’s synth leaning gives this song an edge over the previous songs.

Track five is called “I Should Have Read” and the angles are all opposites musically for this number, it is the element of this band that I love the most – the way that it sounds like it is all triangulated and then it merges into a beautiful song that you could not help but fall in love with.   The confidence in their sound is obvious as they are going for it with the self-assured sense of talent that has been obvious from their first releases.  Once again, the lyrics feel like a confession of sorts which is weird; but they are supported by some beautiful music.  “In n Out” is another 80’s inspired number, but it does not feel like a tribute (unlike the results of the Brandon Flower’s album); it feels as if they have took the techniques for the sound and mixed it with their own sense of rhythm and time structures to make the track of the album.  From the synth feedback, the female backing vocals and the sense of uncertainty with the title and lyrics have come together to create the best song on the album.  “Given Thing”  starts almost normally for this band, the piano intro is slowly joined by percussions, wood instruments and strings; the lyrics about being tired and that something is obvious is another set of guilt for the listener.  It is minimal in places and then sounds huge, bigger than life itself and it wants to keep growing – it is another number showcases their strengths and also shows that they have grown since the last release. 

“Don’t Sit Back (Frankie Said)” is the first song on the album which does not work for me, the instruments do not quite gel together in the verses and the chorus feels like it needs a better song to rest on; first chink in the armour there….  “Accelerate” is asking someone not to change and not to play games, it is another atmospheric song from the band that is influenced by the 80’s once more and it also feels like it has a lot in common with Little Comets.  The music is not quite as angular as other songs on the album, which helps it as it shows that not every song needs to be off-kilter with the timescales and note progression.  The penultimate song is called “Tidal Weight” and there is an anger here, lyrically it feels like someone has been taking the piss and now the singer cannot take it anymore.  The lack of percussion on this song makes it strangely eerie on the listener and it leaves such a haunted impression that you cannot help but be impressed by the band for trying something different.  When the percussion is used, it is the odd cymbal and it is all left to the bass, vocal effects,  synths and guitars – it is one of the more interesting songs on the album, might not be a favourite of mine but I applaud that effort and challenge it would have created for the band.  It seems a shame that they had to add another song afterwards, but they have placed “Be Right Back” on the end.  If I am honest, whilst there is nothing wrong with “Be Right Back” as it sounds as good as the vast percentage of the album, “Tidal Weight” has more present to it and does not merge with tracks like “Accelerate” and “I Should Have Read”.

This album is a really good release, I am yet to hear a release from this band which has not failed to impress me.  They are one of the most interesting indie bands currently coming from the UK at the moment.  They have created another album that will take the listener on a journey through a new and progressive indie music, this time it does have a few flaws though; it should have ended with "Tidal Weight" and not "Be Right Back", also this album is so guilt ridden in places that it makes the Cure sound like a happy place for everyone.  But even an album that makes me feel like I should be sitting on the naughty step and having a long, hard think about the bad things I have done, it still has a brilliant musical edge that I am yet to hear from any other indie band out there.  Another great album from Dutch Uncles, sorry it took so long to review.

8 out of ten - Oh, now you have my attention and maybe my money, time and heart

Top track – In n Out

You can purchase the album from Amazon here

You can visit the Dutch Uncles website here

You can follow their activities on Facebook here

You can stream the album from Spotify here

You can stream the album from Deezer here

You can stream the album from Tidal here

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