I've heard the name Dutch Uncles around a lot over the last few years. I've avoided them. Not sure why. At first they reminded me (by name) of a great Dorset band, Dutch Husband. Then I had them pegged as some kind of landfill indie proposition, another tombstone in the graveyard of musical ambition within the M60. But now, a thirst for new musical demands they must be listened to!
They are grafting in the vein of quirky British pop - like XTC, like 10cc perhaps or The Young Knives - before they got rid of the "The" and lost some of their zest. But the strongest flavour so far is of those lovelorn mid-Noughties pop aberrants, Clor. "Love + Pain" is one of my fondest tunes from the days when I'd just got myself a proper PC and had started downloading music and playing fresh, sparkly tunes at Group Hug music nights with my brother and proto-Hammer Lord Stuchbury. It was angsty playfulness and broken romantic mania - and it felt absolutely bang on the biscuit.
Dutch Uncles are lighter, smoother - but the music still has that insistent guitar and keyboard sibling rivalry driven though the middle. The sounds are very musician-y. One track ("Orval") seems to be named after a Belgian trappiste beer. There is a hint of prosperous, middle class spread here. The opening tune and title track, "Cadenza" has a reassuringly rich FM feel about it right from the cheerfully thumped keyboards that kick it off. The title itself points at virtuosity and aspiration, the show-offs. The skilfull "Hands, hands, hands" chorus of "Fragrant" is a deft winner.
A wind-up music box sets off my fave so far, "Dressage" - which might be about shagging, I can't really catch the lyrics as usual - and then it canters off to nimble little guitar fingers and faint little handclaps. Artful! And if I've heard the lyric "The sound of rain/Breaks my head" correctly, then a childhood in Marple would go a long way to explain this lolloping magic. Elsewhere, the chorus runs "But you know I'm a bird" and I have a lot of time for people that see themselves or that around them in terms of our feathered fiends (sic) (as fuc). Even more time if the words are sung sweetly over a panting, choral background like on astronaut bossanova bobbydazzler "Dolli".
So very pleasantly surprised and pleased with a slight tangy stain of regret that I hadn't listened to them earlier. I suspect more listens will support my theory that this album is also about the breakdown of mental tissue caused by the invasion of the love virus, as with Clor; crystallised with an ironic hindsight that has come out of somewhere to sweeten the air. But I can't catch enough of the lyrics yet.
Rating: Bird Men Soaring out of Manchester Landfill Quagmire