Bio Dutch Uncles
Six years into Dutch Uncles’ flourishing career, the idiosyncratic art-popologists return with new album O Shudder which sees them further distilling and refining their signature sound, marrying rock bombast with classical arrangements, acoustic instrumentation with smart synthetic pop.
O Shudder is Dutch Uncles’ most direct record to date, the sound of a wildly witty band well and truly finding their stride, whilst lyrically tackling the growing pains of being twentysomething in a generic Northern suburbia; according to hip swivelling front man Duncan Wallis, the album covers themes including “pregnancy, social media, terrorism, divorce, sexual dysfunction, job seeking, health scares, doubt, love”.
With O Shudder, Dutch Uncles continue their fascinating, wonky ascent which has seen them play enormodomes with emo punk rock behemoths and self confessed Dutch Uncles acolytes Paramore, supporting and being supported by like minded left-field pop adventurers Wild Beasts, Outfit, Field Music, and Everything Everything, have a burger named after them by one of Manchester’s premiere eateries and prefigure Future Islands’ dance moves meme in their video for 2013 single Flexxin.
The album was recorded with long term collaborator Brendan Williams in three locations; at a studio in the heart of the Welsh valleys, above a Salford pub, ‘The Kings Arms’, (incidentally where C4 comedy Fresh Meat is filmed) and, for the acoustic instruments, in the natural reverb of Salford’s Peel Hall. The band were meticulous in tweaking their synth sounds so they’d fit seamlessly with the harp, xylophone, marimba, string and woodwind sounds that populate the record. Sources of inspiration for the record included The Blue Nile, Kate Bush’s third album, Never For Ever, Igor Stravinsky, Japan and lyrically John Cooper Clarke, Sparks, Ian Dury and Prefab Sprouts’ album From Langley Park to Memphis.
O Shudder’s narrative involves a protagonist, a twentysomething everyman, a version of Wallis perhaps, agonising over awkward questions and situations arising from his past and future. Babymaking kicks things off with the protagonist evaluating his suitability for parenthood. Upsilon tackles the protagonist’s interaction with and insecurities relating to social media, including reminiscences of quitting MySpace as a teenager. Decided Knowledge tells of the impact on the mind of the protagonist after a failed job interview process, whilst In n Out sketches a grammatically poor approach to breaking down the friend zone. The album culminates in Tidal Weight in which the protagonist’s social paranoia and internal angst reach such a level that, during a self administered health check, he imagines his body to have dematerialised. Wallis explains that “it felt like a suitable narrative, as we ourselves approach our thirties where a lot of people are expected to feel sure about who they are and where they are going and just don’t”.
All set to o shudder and stun, and induce plenty of hip swivelling, Dutch Uncles have delivered on their youthful potential and, with O Shudder, solved their own particular Rubix’s cube, bringing their unclassifiable pop music into clear and precise focus.