British rockers Dutch Uncles have been bubbling away in the underground math-pop scene since 2008, and this month sees the release of their latest album Big Balloon.
From the off, the band sound bold and confident. Big Balloon and Baskin’ return to the gritty sound of 2011’s Cadenza album with post-punk basslines, upbeat choruses and aggressive yet hushed vocals from Duncan Wallis. Combo Box and Same Plane Dream have a similar angsty vibe thanks to the krautrock guitar style, which adds a tinge of The Mars Volta to the formula. Elsewhere, Hiccup sounds as if it could have been taken straight from their self-titled debut.
Achameleon shows a dynamic contrast, with jumping piano chords and a tender vocal delivery, while fluttering strings and soft pads in the chorus help add drama and melancholy. The instrumentation is indicative of those on 2013’s Out of Touch In The Wild, but with far more conviction.
As the album progresses, Streetlight, Oh Yeah and Sink shift towards the sonic qualities of their previous album O Shudder, with syncopated bass patterns and heavy 80s synths. The drums remain simplistic, creating a dance feel as the choruses flow seamlessly between sections.
Big Balloon may not have a defined theme, but it illustrates Dutch Uncles at their most incisive. The album feels like a Greatest Hits, except they have taken the best aspects of their previous work, rather than whole tracks, and built on them to produce their most consistent record to date. Ultimately, it sounds like a band having fun.
Edited by Ginny Wong