by Rob Wilson

Out of Touch in the Wild
Dutch Uncles
Memphis Industries

Although you could suggest that Marple is a town known only by residents from the Greater Manchester area, the small rural town appears to be making a name for itself in the music industry at the moment. Electronic act Delphic, former residents of Marple, scored a UK top ten with their 2010 debut release Acolyte, had their single ‘Good Life’ released through the promotion of the London Olympics last year, and have just this week released their second album, Collections, on Polydor Records – not bad for a band hailing from a quiet town that’s a stride away from a flock of sheep.

But it appears that they’ve already been beaten in the 2013 release race by fellow Marple residents Dutch Uncles, who have released their new album Out of Touch in the Wild on Memphis Industries this month. Dutch Uncles have also popped up on a couple of YouTube adverts of their own and are starting to receive attention (and praise) from mainstream critics half a decade, and three albums, into their recording career.

One immediately noticeable feature – or accidental problem perhaps – of Dutch Uncles’ sound is that they bare an unmistakable resemblance to Hot Chip. Lead-singer Duncan Wallis’ quirky, shy vocal delivery would have him passing every audition Hot Chip staged if their lead singer, Alexis Taylor, were to leave the band. But most importantly, Dutch Uncles, just like Hot Chip, also seem to possess the wonderful attribute of not taking themselves too seriously – something that seems to be very important for bands in the world of social networking and popularity contests.

Putting possible influences and personalities aside for a moment, I must start by saying that Dutch Uncles have gone ahead and produced one of the most enjoyable and fun albums of the year so far. It does appear that not taking yourself too seriously as an artist allows you to meander down creative paths that a serious mind may ignore. As opening track ‘Pondage’ begins, a wooden xylophone trickles in underneath steady piano chords that signal the start of each bar, but from here an entire toyshop of instruments joins in as guitars, strings and synthesized chords taken straight from cheesy 80s pop build slowly and drop without warning into ‘Bellio’, a slick potential single that shows Dutch Uncles know how to write the ideal indie-pop track when they feel like it – bright synths take control of an impressive chorus and dazzle around Wallis’ tale of complimenting physical features of other people.

Lead-single ‘Fester’ hovers dangerously over Hot Chip flavoured lava but manages to keep its toes out of the boiling liquid of criticism by working more twinkling wooden xylophones, shy hooks and synth-lead choruses within irregular time signatures that show Dutch Uncles certainly pay a lot of attention and care to creating their music – which is always a warm hug of hope and anticipation so early on. ‘Godboy’ creeps in quietly as if it were a soundtrack to a David Firth cartoon, before a plucked guitar riff shares the stereo mix and makes way for more irregular time signatures, light percussion and strings.

‘Flexxin’ almost dances in and out of flowers and encourages small woodland creatures to follow suit as Wallis tells the story of his joy at finding the potential love of his life in the most innocent way possible – using metaphors of dancing, holding hands and making plans to describe his emotions. But I suppose it’s here that the consistency of Dutch Uncles’ sound wavers a little and becomes a tad monotonous. For a band that doesn’t seem too shy to explore unusual places, Dutch Uncles only seem to be able to create one kind of song – quirky, indie-pop songs that, while having a clear vision, don’t have anywhere near as much depth as they could. ‘Zug Zwang’ opens with melancholic strings suitable for the final kiss scene of an American rom-com and hint at some potential thematic change halfway through the album, but the pianos and the xylophones that are all too regular soon swallow up any hope of that happening and continue along the same path that now has several woodland creatures outlining it – smiles on their faces reaching both ears as the wooden xylophones clunk around the place, leaving Dutch Uncles sounding, funnily enough, slightly out of touch in the wild.

But despite all that, I don’t seem to find myself having that much of a problem with the lack of instrumental variety for some reason. Normally I’d be banging my head in frustration, screaming “Why can’t you live a little and dabble in uncharted waters?! You’re talented musicians,aren’t you? You must know there is more than one type of song you can write!”, but the attention and care that has gone into the sound that Dutch Uncles produce has made Out of Touch in the Wild frustrating for all the right reasons. A little like their next-door neighbours Delphic, Dutch Uncles only need a tweak or a twist to be potentially glorious. With a touch of depression here, a dash of a darker moment there and a sprinkle of melancholy in the middle, we could have a special band on our hands here, ladies and gents. Could the tiny rural town of Marple suddenly be a hot bed for talent and a temporary home to some huge record producers? Only time will tell.