Dutch Uncles - Out of Touch in the Wild (Memphis Industries)
January 14, 2013
Remember that moment in My Fair Lady where a self-satisfied Henry Higgins says 'By George, she's got it?' of Eliza Doolittle? Well, that's how Dutch Uncles' Out of Touch in the Wild feels.
Dutch Uncles are a band of great ambition and skill, and an excellent live outfit to boot. Regular readers will know that I, and many others, have been fond of them for years. However - and it does hurt to say this, but it's important to be honest - neither their self-titled debut nor Cadenza quite clicked, in spite of the group's clear talent.
What's different about Out of Touch in the Wild, according to the band's record label, is that it was planned and conceived as a studio album from the outset. It certainly shows, making for a cohesive record that bristles with a stately atmosphere from start to finish.
The album opens with a sense of melancholy on 'Pondage', introducing new instrumental elements (notably xylophone) to the band's familiar mix of chugging, angular guitar lines. However, there's still plenty of upbeat moments. The funky 'Bellio' and stylish 'Fester', which follow on immediately, are short, sharp four-to-the-floor floorfillers, and recent single 'Flexxin' will have you throwing shapes to rival those of the band's very own Duncan Wallis in the video - that is, if you're not too wrapped up in obsessive study of its finer intricacies.
The delicate 'Phaedra' is an understated highlight, showing off a hitherto unexplored side to the band with chugging cello and a hushed, haunting vocal from Wallis. Also of note is 'Threads', which bears much in common with the band's excellent cover of 'Go Your Own Way' by Fleetwood Mac for Mojo's Rumours Revisited compilation - fast and furious melodies, albeit reined in and kept under control by the power of the band's rhythm section.
Speaking of genres, Out of Touch in the Wild, much like another recently-released album from Dutch Uncles' Manchester contemporaries Everything Everything, is a glorious trip through them - often several in one song. 'Fester' skips through mid-'00s leftfield art rock, hip-hop, funk and house sensibilities (that piano line in the outro!). 'Flexxin' is a reconstruction of a merry musical dust-up between Prince and a string quartet that will relentlessly etch itself into your memory, and penultimate track 'Nometo' pilfers all the best bits from indie-rock monsters (guitar lines that should be turned up to a minimum of fifteen, an instantly memorable chorus, a pinch of the blues) without resorting to the genre's very worst excesses.
So, it's definitely a case of third time lucky for Dutch Uncles. By breaking free of their own staples and incorporating new ideas, melodies and instruments, they've created the best record of their careers so far without a shadow of a doubt.
words and archive image: Kate Goodacre
Dutch Uncles tour the UK next month, calling at The Cluny, Newcastle (February 5), The Art School, Glasgow (6), Brudenell Social Club, Leeds (7), Kazimier, Liverpool (8), Leadmill, Sheffield (9), The Moon Club, Cardiff (12), Green Door Store, Brighton (13), Hoxton Bar and Kitchen, London (14, sold out), Hare and Hounds, Birmingham (15) and Gorilla, Manchester (16).