Album Review: Dutch Uncles – Big Balloon

By on Thursday, 9th March 2017 at 12:00 pm

Weird indie pop strikes back with the return of Dutch Uncles and their fifth album ‘Big Balloon’. Not afraid to be whatever the fuck it wants, ‘Big Balloon’ is unabashed with its highs and lows, and it’s all the better for it. Wasting no time, proceedings start with the title track where there’s literally no escaping the groove. The bass kicks in toting a rapid attitude, which the drums dutifully mirror. But it’s when the track’s melody appears that you’re sucked into the long game, creating an irrefutably catchy chorus. While the layout of the track may be oddly precarious in its separate pieces, together as one, it comes together to form a powerhouse of an indie pop track.

‘Baskin” continues this trend, but lowers the assault to a guitar pop level rather than straight forward, abrasively sugar-coated indie. Not quite the earworm as its predecessor, its sounds appear and, as soon as they’ve arrived, they disappear around you, keeping you intrigued and paying attention. Following this, ‘Combo Box’ is unashamedly Eighties: a track that could quite easily have been written by a mid-Seventies, ‘Fame’-era Bowie.

Staying consistently out of the ordinary, ‘Same Plane Dream’ is a flurry of synthesisers and singer Duncan Wallis’ trademark androgynous vocals. It’s all very good at getting you hooked in and almost hypnotising you, but there’s no major differentiating between them all ultimately. That is, until ‘Achameleon’. Beginning rather modestly with a simple piano line, which Wallis joins with similar simplicity, with the line occasionally stepping out of its projected bounds just to remind you that it’s Dutch Uncles you’re listening to and not some other paint-by-numbers ballad band. It continues through to a pleasing melody, while abrasive-cum-beautiful strings join in building a more frantic tempo. You soon realise that the track isn’t a simple piano-man heart on sleeve situation but rather the track is made to represent a madness that comes with those feelings.

As the abrupt ending of ‘Achamelon’ leaves you a little bit lost, ‘Hiccup’ does as its name suggests. It winds in and out of peacefulness until a powerful pop chorus emerges from the building quirkiness. Now we’re full steam back into pop mode. ‘Streetlight’ has a major funk edge to it, with synthesisers adding their power to the bass’ marching thunder. There’s also a wonderful way about the Dutch Uncles approach to songwriting, where they manage to construct the notions the songs are about into worlds that you can visualise. ‘Street Light’ has a dark evening hidden amongst its soundscape, influencing the song’s title.

‘Oh Yeah’ has none of the real charms the previous tracks featured. It feels like a direct lift of a cliche Eighties track. By all means it’s fun, but it turns the journey that has been crafted, swiftly into a mere facsimile rather than a clever, modern take. Definitely one that should have made its way to the cutting room floor. Somewhat of a saving grace, ‘Sink’ has a dark pop nature to it. Featuring a consistent canvas of jittery synth, the rest of the track stacks neatly on top, forming one of the albums less cheery moments, which is a relief to the perma-smile the rest somehow feature.

Finale ‘Overton’ is a world of its own, decidedly apart from everything before it. Rather than opting for a grandiose effort, it feels more akin to a throwaway, though its abrupt ending does seemingly fit the album’s curious nature. A solid fifth return from Dutch Uncles, while it may not be groundbreaking, it’s certainly a challenging listen that demands a lot of you. Something that can’t be said for a lot of releases.


‘Big Balloon’, Dutch Uncles’ fifth album, is out now on Memphis Industries. You can read more of TGTF’s coverage on Dutch Uncles through here.

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[…] Wales in an artist residency there. The band themselves released their fifth album early this year, ‘Big Balloon’, so they’ve got plenty to pick and choose from in their back catalogue. The bubblegummy ‘Oh […]

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