Many have said that ‘favourite’ is a word I use quite often when talking about music, but I can say with the utmost honesty that Dutch Uncles are my favourite band from Manchester EVER. I stumbled upon them nearly 10 years ago, just after the release of their superb debut album and I have been hopelessly hooked on their progressive brand of indie-pop ever since. To me, they just get better as musicians, songwriters and as a unit on each record, with each new album becoming their best to date.
2015 saw them bring a sassy, 80’s pop tinge to their fourth LP ‘O Shudder’, but with the use of additional electronics and instrumentation they had created their most lavish record. Always ones to push themselves into new territories, Dutch Uncles keep it fresh on album five by presenting to us their most concise and straight-up pop collection to date!
The band treated us with the album’s title track late last year, which acts as a smashing opening here; its chunky bass line and big, glittering chorus is just irresistible. Actually, that is a good word to use for this record, the melodies are so strong, you just cannot resist them. Recent single ‘Oh Yeah‘ has this scatty little synth line that has been echoing around my head ever since I first heard it, then it bursts into this stupendously catchy chorus that offers one of the album’s most perfect bubble-gum pop moments.
Tracks like ‘Combo Box‘ and ‘Same Plane Dream‘ follow similar suit in providing cool, riff driven grooves before sinking into super silky, dreamy choruses that, to me, recall some of the singles off their second album ‘Cadenza‘. It seems like the band have gone back to basics a little in terms of instrumentation, with guitars much higher in the mix than their last two LP’s. Whether they’re shimmering away in the back of a chorus or driving a verse with a nice off-kilter fuzzy riff, the guitars are back with force here!
More or less, this is 10 straight up pop bangers. Even the stripped back, drumless centerpiece ‘Achameleon‘ still packs a punch, with a thumping piano based rhythm. Although saying that, it’s also impossibly pretty with lots of synths and strings layered over the top; it may be one of the prettiest tunes they’ve penned! Last track ‘Overton‘ sees them at their most prog as they throw brass, strings and xylophones into four minutes of theatrical joy. The last 10 seconds unexpectedly ascends into this fucking monster rock riff which quickly cuts off to my dismay. But it’s a proper exciting way to finish the record, designed to leave you amped up and wanting more!
Big Balloon sees the band at their most playful and accessible. It combines all the sass and sparkle of its predecessor, mixed with the more angular, riff driven grooves of their first two records. Every time I hear a new Dutch Uncles record I always get hyped, but this record has really grabbed me hard this time round and I just can’t get enough of it. I don’t think the band have ever been in it to become ‘big’, but with a set of songs this good, this has to be the record that makes everyone turn around and jump on this wonderfully crafted and sturdy ship!