Dutch Uncles – Big Balloon

Album Review by Andrew Gordon | 08 Feb 2017
Album title: Big Balloon
Artist: Dutch Uncles
Label: Memphis Industries
Release date: 17 Feb

Dutch Uncles are an odd bunch. Like fellow Mancunians Everything Everything or American counterparts Battles, the four-piece communicate in their own hyper-colourful, idiosyncratic language, and just trying to parse their dense and wildly inventive music can be equal parts thrilling and exhausting. Big Balloon finds them cranking up the tempo and reconnecting their guitars after 2015’s largely synth-driven O Shudder, though the result is less a stylistic refresh than a confident reaffirmation of their combined output up until now.

As ever, time signatures are a fluid thing on this fifth record, as are coherent musical styles; throbbing techno arpeggios play against quivering strings (Sink) and gnarly double-pedal drum fills give way to shimmering disco choruses (Combo Box), all of it propelled by chief songwriter Robin Richards’ vigorous bass playing. And there’s much to like – Hiccup and Oh Yeah are great fun, while the tension between the wonky agitated bassline and chilled-out guitar on Streetlight is total ear candy.

The lyrics, however, are their own mystery. Duncan Wallis reaches peak absurdity a good few times here, from early riddle 'Leave it all for potato lands / When you’re getting upset, getting upset about sand' to the absolute zinger 'You beat a lot of traffic / From baby eyes so constipated'. Like everything else on Big Balloon though, you’d never call them boring.

Listen to: Streetlight, Hiccup, Oh Yeah