For some of us they may have seemingly sprung up from nowhere recently, Zebedee like, but amazingly Dutch Uncles are actually already on their third album. Sadly neither of the first two seemed to shoot them to instant fame and fortune but in a classic case of ‘third time lucky’ the new one, Out Of Touch In The Wild, seems to be tickling hipsters’ tastebuds nicely as tonight’s ‘sold out, sell your own kidney / grandmother’s kidney / grandmother to get a ticket’ gig clearly showed.
First up though Birmingham’s own Victories At Sea, still carefully navigating their way through the music biz’s choppy waters. Just this week they earned a much deserved slot on NME’s Radar Bands to Watch list thanks in part to their current single Stay Positive and tonight’s set was another fine display of atmospherically rich, multi layered music with a healthy nod towards some of the better alternative 80s bands (echoes of Killing Joke in one or two tracks for instance). Over a tsunami of reverb drenched guitar lead singer JP pours out heart and soul, pausing only to launch into some ass shakingly infectious riffs. Stay Positive’s a frankly epic track, cleverly marrying the aforementioned alt80s guitar sound with a subtle dance beat in the background wrapping you in a glorious blanket of noise that’s as hard to give up as a duvet on a cold winter’s day. Success from here just seems like plain sailing...
Next up Coves, a boy / girl / boy combo with 60s meets 80s garage / dream pop leanings. One of the dudes plays twangy guitar, the other stands up beating three flavours of hell out of a simple drum kit and the girl channels her inner Kate Bush with some particularly impressive arm waving. A breathy snail’s pace rework of Chris Isaak’s Wicked Game (hardly a party banger to begin with) makes you feel like you’ve just smoked the largest joint on planet earth whilst the self penned set closer No Ladder’s the kind of track that could give shoegazing a good name. I half expected them to launch into Julie Driscoll’s trippy take on This Wheel’s On Fire midset but sadly they resisted the temptation (shame, I think they’d nail it).
Time for Dutch Uncles then, a quintet from Marple (it’s outside Manchester apparently, just in case you fancy stalking them...and now I think I do). With admitted influences ranging from New Wave kings of pop XTC through to Prog experimentalists King Crimson t’Uncles are clearly plugged into the good stuff and this shines through during the entire set. Not for the first time this week the lead singer’s rocking the falsetto (see also Everything Everything and Outfit...it’s probably down to all that horse meat we’ve been scoffing), but unlike most other lead singers Duncan Wallis is a nifty mover, serving up the kind of twitchy dance moves that normally require a taser to achieve. In fact not since Ian Curtis has a frontman been quite so animated. It’s all the more surprising given his geek chic geography teacher outfit (brown brogues, blue slacks, red cotton shirt). It’s all part of the understated charm of this band though, reinforced when Wallis reaches beneath his keyboard for a cup of tea instead of the traditional alcoholic on stage refreshment. “It’s Friday tea though” he offered apologetically. Awwww bless him.
Coming to this gig a relative Dutch Uncles virgin tonight’s obvious highlights included the two most recent singles, the glockenspiel powered punningly titled Fester (Dutch Uncles...Uncle Fester...geddit?) and its string driven younger sibling Flexxin. They’re both Class A earworms, exhibiting the same clever clever pop nous of ‘boffin rock’ peers Everything Everything, Wild Beasts, Hot Chip and Alt J.
Remarkably these probably aren’t the bands strongest songs though. 2011’s Cadenza (from the album of the same title) is like the glorious love child of Sparks, Roxy Music and XTC whilst set closer Brio, from the new album, sticks Krautrock, prog and math rock into a blender and minces it all up to produce something utterly awesome.
The opening track of a sweat drenched encore, Face In, proves they’ve been producing great work for years now, dating back as it does to 2008, whilst frenetic set closer The Ink well and truly rams home the point for anyone still in doubt. Impressed? Oh boy, yes...just a ‘dutch’...
Setlist : Pondage / Bellio / X-O / Fester / Threads / Cadenza / Orval / Godboy / Phaedra / Nometo / Flexxin / Dressage / Brio
Encore : Face In / The Ink