The Quietus - A new rock music and pop culture website


Dutch Uncles
Out Of Touch In The Wild David Zammitt , January 18th, 2013 07:50

Add your comment »

It's hard to categorise Manchester's Dutch Uncles. The Wikipedia user who vaguely tossed them into the “indie rock” bucket certainly didn't cover it. Persistent comparisons to Hot Chip - focussed around Duncan Wallis's sweet-stoic falsetto and Alexis Taylor's always-on-the-verge-of-shattering vocals - also come up short. Dutch Uncles have antecedents in XTC and Peter Gabriel, but that doesn't paint the full picture either. A dutch uncle, you might be interested to learn, is a person who seeks to educate but does so in the harshest of terms, and a clue to the group's distinctive sound seems to lie in their choice of name. Looking beyond the voices and the up-front synths, for example, there's a lot more aggression to their music than Hot Chip's electronic pop. This has more in common with Slint or Tortoise, driven relentlessly forward by spiky, shifting percussive rhythms and stammering, agitated staccato guitars.

Opener 'Pondage' sets the tone for an album founded on tension, its eerie bells and plucked guitar polyrhythmic guitar lines providing a haunting preface to a journey that is, when it works, as unnerving as it is catchy. 'Bellio' is a blistering marriage of new wave and math rock that tells the tale of a sexual encounter. It's all muscle and perspiration, and if you've ever woken up delirious and unfulfilled from a dream about a James Murphy and Battles collaboration then you're in luck.

Lead single and hands-down stand-out track 'Fester' is a disco-infused nod to DFA with ghostly synths floating through an intense battle of pianos, marimbas and handclaps. It's the closest Wallis and co have come to four-to-the-floor dance music and it sounds superb. Other highlights are the ominous rhythms of 'Threads' and the Spiritualized-esque space-rock of 'Nometo'.

Standards aren't always as high, however, and the second half of the album is blighted by a lack of variation. 'Flexxin', for example, is a mawkish, paint by numbers pop workout. Their first single of 2013, it seems to suffer from having a wandering eye on the commercial success that has eluded the group so far. It's hard to point the finger of blame at a band that haven't broken into the UK mainstream since their 2009 debut, but with its sunny violins and banal, generic love song lyrics (“You can hold my hand / I feel it, we understand.”) it will be nauseating for anything other than the casual ear. If the goal was simply not to offend, then 'Flexxin' does the job, and it's easy to imagine it providing the soundtrack to the BBC's Best Of Wimbledon montage come June. Similarly, 'Brio' and 'Zug Zwang' are too sweet, their Jeff Lynne string sections grating more with each listen.

Nevertheless, Out Of Touch represents a steady evolution of a band, and while you sense they've still not made a truly great album, the Uncles pack a sturdy punch on their most focused album yet.

If you love our features, news and reviews, please support what we do with a one-off or regular donation. Year-on-year, our corporate advertising is down by around 90% - a figure that threatens to sink The Quietus. Hit this link to find out more and keep on Black Sky Thinking.

Jan 18, 2013 11:10pm

Worst name for a group in history coupled with the weedy whimsical vocals demands a dose of pestilence or extreme noise terror to wash away the stench
fucking awful and the virus seems to be reproducing with other fucking weedy indie middle class whimsy shite cropping up all over the shop
i blame 6 music and fucking marc reiley in particular
get a fucking grip,we are in a tory austerity era,fucking act accordingly

Reply to this Admin

jai r.emmett
Jan 19, 2013 12:01am

In reply to :

Agreed,these remarks pass for so much lauded music lately!

Reply to this Admin

Butch Uncle
Jan 19, 2013 3:34pm

The Dutch Uncles are fucking brilliant. Original, quirky and at their best downright weird in a good way. The grammar abusing person above clearly has cloth ears and no imagination.

Reply to this Admin

Jan 20, 2013 9:47pm

It's not a bad album - it's pretty and occasionally even interesting. In common with most English indie guitar bands of the moment there is something bloodless and over studied about it. The thin reedy vocals grate after a while too

Reply to this Admin

Nick Hunt
Jan 21, 2013 10:48am

So as if it's not bad enough having the tories decide our economic policy, the first poster would like them to dominate the arts too? Excellent, perfect timing for my piece of commercial agit-pop "No Referendum on the EU".

Reply to this Admin

Stavros P. Leibowitz
Jan 21, 2013 2:23pm

In reply to :

Funny you mention Marc Riley as he really has gone downhill the last year or two. For someone who makes such a big deal about championing new music he spends an awful amount of time playing the underground hits of yesteryear. A real shame that he doesn't walk it like he talks it. Oh, and Dutch Uncles are pretty ordinary at best.

Reply to this Admin

Jan 21, 2013 5:13pm

In reply to :

I'm impartial, tbh... apathetic, you might say.
You do sound awfully angry, though... and a bit silly.

Reply to this Admin

Jan 25, 2013 2:00am

This band reminds me of the danish Mew, with all their strengths and shortcomings. They sound alike, their singers have great falsettos and both have the ability to bring proggy and brainy sounds to great pop on their good moments. On the other hand, they both tend towards tiresome teenage love songs toward the end of their records and they also tend to abuse their powers to silly results. All in all, though, I find them more interesting than most of the indie shit that's around these days, that is either pretentious hear-me-whisper-about-my-childhood-rape kind of crap or guitar chops played seemingly at random.

Reply to this Admin

Steve M
Feb 7, 2013 9:26pm

Best band in Britain right now, by a country mile.

Reply to this Admin