Bio Dutch Uncles
Manchester’s idiosyncratic art-popologists Dutch Uncles return with Big Balloon, their new studio album, on 17th February 2017 on Memphis Industries.
Taking musical inspiration from Kate Bush’s The Red Shoes, Low-era David Bowie, some slightly-less fashionable records belonging to their Dads and East European techno, it’s the fifth Dutch Uncles studio album and the follow-up to 2015’s acclaimed O Shudder.
Big Balloon is the latest chapter in Dutch Uncles’ brilliantly witty, hip-swiveling, left-field adventures and was recorded in Manchester’s old Granada TV Studios where Sex Pistols and Joy Division made their televisual debuts.
The album opens with the full throttle, guitar heavy title track: “The song has a simple message: to be content with who you are. If you need help with that, then don’t be ashamed or frustrated,” says vocalist and lyricist Duncan Wallis.
“”Big Balloon” helped steer the direction of the album,” adds composer and bass player Robin Richards. “It reminded us of the potency of electric guitars, and brought them back as focal instruments on the record.”
Big Balloon doesn’t follow a single narrative, functioning instead as ten distinct pieces, each tackling a different topic, including austerity cuts, therapy, fried chicken, paranoia and coming to terms with loneliness. The thunderous “Same Plane Dream” addresses the issue of benefit cuts and how the current Government can’t live by the standards it enforces. The wonky “Hiccup”, one of the first to emerge from the album recordings, is a break-up song of sorts, making sense of assigning blame at a relationship’s end.
“Sink” takes its impetus from Robin’s recent visit to Chernobyl, the subject of his solo project “Birdsong: Stories from Pripyat” about the 1986 nuclear meltdown. “Musically the trip was a heady mix of East European techno in the clubs at night and deep prog on the car radio in the daytime and both made their way in to this one,” explains Robin. “The theme of this song is based around someone feeling there’s a happiness for them elsewhere geographically speaking, but knowing it’s just not possible to get there”.
The smart disco of “Streetlight” touches on coming to terms with loneliness and the importance of remaining open to new chances to connect despite feeling sceptical. It’s followed by the Devo-esque attack of “Oh Yeah,” a track which features backing vocals from Stealing Sheep and Everything Everything. Duncan explains: “as soon as you are back to emotional zero, BAM! Opportunity knocks. Perhaps not in the way you thought it would, but a connection all the same, and the realisation genuinely carefree times are right there in your palm.”
The album culminates with lushly orchestrated “Overton”. “I remember originally writing it about Bowie’s brain” says Duncan. “His death almost felt like perfect art, and I suppose I looked at that and thought, “who will ever surpass this? Might as well give up now” but then the idea of expressing the frustration of living with the unknown overtook that pretty quickly.”
Big Balloon then is Dutch Uncles’ finest album to date, taking listeners on an exhilarating cerebral journey that marks them out a one of the UK’s most consistently forward thinking bands.