Dutch Uncles - Out of Touch in the Wild

by Steve Reynolds Rating:8.5 Release Date:2013-01-15

Ah, the North West, responsible for so much musical beauty over the decades, has once again delivered with Marple quintet Dutch Uncles. Now onto their third album, Out of Touch in the Wild, this should see them take their eclectic sound to another stage and overdue recognition. Not too dissimilar to peers Everything Everything in terms of approach and willingness to be adventurous, they display a gregarious approach to pop sensibility here, with 10 songs of polish and sheen.

The band list XTC, Smiths and Talking Heads as some of their influences, but on opener 'Pondage' they also have room to breathe in the simplicity of early indie-pop a la Lotus Eaters or Martin Stephenson, with a minimal dose of 70s disco pioneers Chic. All this is surrounded by the vocal of Duncan Wallis, his distinct, heightened falsetto recalling the kook of Green Gartside. At times, it's almost androgynous in delivery but that only helps hold the attention of the listener. He tells us about friendships, growing old and a general day-to-day perspective on modern living.

Whether it's decadent synths ('Bellio') and hi-NRG plinky-plonk ('Fester'), they maintain a heady brew of off-kilter indie-pop with enough going on to stop themselves falling into the abyss of straight ahead chart-pop, mainly through integrity and songcraft. The Igor Stravinsky-influenced 'Godboy' blends a hypnotic chiming guitar and a contagious keyboard stab to create a veritable feast of saccharin sweetness. The time signatures are all over the place but that merely adds to the general loveliness of the track.

Some may call Willis' vocals lame and limp but his pitch is perfectly harnessed by his four fellow band members and their willingness to mess, tweak and push the musical boundaries. They flirt with electronica on 'Threads' and mesh together a plethora of heightened strings and bouncing beats of glee with 'Flexxin'.

Out of Touch in the Wild is a clever album full of intricate and beguiling musical riches, driven by Willis's pugilist determination. Giving up alcohol in January is not so uncommon but maybe people should take up drinking in Dutch Uncles saliva instead.

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