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Cadenza - Dutch Uncles [CD]
In 2009, a little band from Manchester released an eponymous debut on a little German label, leaving only a little impression on their domestic scene. But from an acorn the mightiest of oaks can grow, and sure enough the years between that set and this follow-up have seen Dutch Uncles come to the attentions of influential sorts in the music industry. Now picked up by label-of-fine-repute Memphis Industries, and with support from several acts enjoying moderate-to-decent success, they’re poised to take a belated step into mainstream hearts.
If one wants to draw the grandest of parallels, then a leap can be taken back to the early 1960s and The Beatles, whose first taste of widespread recognition came courtesy of German audiences. And like The Beatles (once they’d worked their way out all of those covers), these fellow north-westerners pepper pop immediacy with inspired hooks and intelligent lyricism. Too rash to suggest they’re the finest group to hail from said corner of England since the Fab Four? Of course. But in the wake of breakthroughs from Everything Everything and Foals, there’s evidently a market today for this band’s wonderfully breezy brand of clever, concise and cunningly catchy pop that wasn’t quite established two years ago.
Cadenza’s opening title-track skips along with real zeal, thumping percussion playing a balancing act with sprightly keys and buoyant guitars. If the listener knew no better, they might conclude that Scouting for Girls had found genuine ingenuity under their gold discs, as the track has a similar (at its core) piano-indie-pop feel to it. Needless to say, though, that this is many leagues ahead of such comparatively mundane fare – accompanying information refers to influences including Steve Reich, Sparks and Cardiacs, and Dutch Uncles should be categorised as every bit as singularly special as those acts.
Highlights come quickly, striking with immediate effect and retaining their charm numerous listens later (much like the band’s debut, this will hang around the stereo for many weeks). The lolloping X-O spirals its post-punk-ish guitars around a central lyric of stealing breath away; previous single The Ink finds those same guitars being stabbed into action, half Gang of Four, half Guillemots once the soaring climax comes into focus; Orval is a pounding glam throwback with snazzy new trainers in place of platforms; and Dressage is so dizzily breathless it’s a fine sit-at-home substitute for riding a waltzer nine times in a row. "It’s alright," says frontman Duncan Wallis on the latter, just before bellowing like a bungee-jumping John Lydon, but he’s wrong. Cadenza is so much better than alright: it’s more than a little brilliant.
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Top Customer Reviews
The Dutch Uncles' second album is an inspired collection of art-pop songs, tuneful and barbed, yet decidedly off-kilter. Inevitably comparisons have been made to both XTC and Talking Heads, which are quite appropriate, what with their predilection for experimental rhythmic pulses and occasional lyrical eccentricities.
The title track reveals their ambition. Piano and guitar set the scene, while vocalist Duncan Wallis recounts a tale seemingly inspired by his Grandmother's funeral. "Fragrant" marries a series of intoxicating vocal hooks to guitarist Daniel Spedding's spidery lead, and "Sting", for all its jerky cadence and jittering beats, remains intrinsically melodic. It's a ploy they repeat on "Dressage" with no less success, and perhaps it's inevitable that "Cadenza" takes a little perseverance to truly appreciate, though it's undeniably time well spent, and the rewards are plentiful.
album 'Cadenza' lights up the sky as though a burning match had
been inadvertantly dropped into a box of fireworks. Kazzzoooosh!
There are eleven numbers in the collection and their management of
complex, left-of-centre time signatures, energetic ensemble arrangements
and well-managed vocal harmonies is highly idiosyncratic.
There's a prog(ish) spirit at work here which takes me back to the
heady days of the seventies from time to time but the backbone of jangly
Mancunian indie is also alive and well in their well-wrought compositions.
It's musically intelligent stuff but gets the toes tapping too.
Michael Hann of The Guardian compares singer Duncan Wallis's shrill
vibrating falsetto to Hot Chip's Alexis Taylor and he's not far off
the mark but I found myself thinking about Sparks' Russell Mael
on more than one occasion. Either way it's a highly distinctive voice.
Things get off to a rip-roaring start with title track 'Cadenza';
a full-bodied stomper which ducks and dives like a bumper car.
The juxtaposition of ringing guitar, loping percussion and high-slung
vocals would not have sounded out of place on an early Yes album.
'Dolli' takes a mellower route to its final destination; an exotic
mixture of pulsing vocal harmonies and minimal instrumentation.
'Orval' is a real beast of an invention. Galumphing along like a
panzer division but with intervals of light and shade to add
variation and layers of additional sonic interest. Sterling stuff!
The musical box opening of 'The Rub' gives way to one of the band's
loveliest ideas.Read more ›
Dutch Uncles boast writing ability; the record is very creative, and when you get past the indieness of their sound, you realise that there is actually a lot of substance there. The Ink is one epic belter from start to finish, X-O is clever pop music in a 6/4 time signature guided by precise drumming, Dolli is slow and intimate but has that persistent beat change that makes it interesting. Zalo is another unlikely highlight, the repeating piano riff is catchy and you get used to the rhythm before the time signature changes abruptly (again!) and you're left with an I see what you did there expression on your face, as you realise that you wouldn't have come up with that idea. Each song sounds like they've put so much time to nurture them.
There is just so much talent on show with this one. Dutch Uncles have matured so much since their self-titled debut. The band have found the perfect formula it seems, who knows what the next record will offer.