Ever flip through your Facebook News Feed and feel bogged down by the endless stream of various adulthood milestones? Like if you see one more pregnancy/new job/new house/unemployment/divorce announcement you’ll just burst? Dutch Uncles’ latest, O Shudder, digs into all these topics with steely precision and the clinical detachment of a scientist observing from afar. Blame the Manchester quintet’s addled time signatures and art rock leanings for the cold shoulder treatment, but this isn’t a group concerned with exploring the well-documented plight of twentysomethings in a warm and fuzzy manner.
Despite a six-year history, Dutch Uncles officially cemented their worth with the idiosyncratic Out of Touch in the Wild in 2013, followed by a game-changing supporting slot on Paramore’s jaunt across Europe. Fast-forward two years and frontman Duncan Wallis and co. still meld the best of Tears For Fears and Hot Chip into brain food for those who don’t mind a little academia with their hip-shaking. Paring up again with producer Brendan Williams, the band retains deft control over the album’s synthetic elements, keeping them from encroaching on the instruments powered by flesh and blood.
A slithering guitar line weaves around jumpy woodwinds on “Drips”, while come-hither bass explodes into a stilted doo-wop chorus of feminine (real or concocted) vocals on “Be Right Back”. On first single “In N Out”, Wallis channels Wham!-era George Michael — if he were fronting Talking Heads, that is. “Given Thing” owes a hefty debt to Radiohead’s “Pyramid Song”, just as “Decided Knowledge” seethes with the DNA of Duran Duran. However, since the LP’s 11 tracks always keep the listener at arm’s length, it’s best to treat them with the same indifference. Don’t be the reacher in this relationship.
Essential Tracks: “Decided Knowledge”, “Babymaking”