Released 23rd February
Heading out of their twenties, travelling on to confront the difficulties of adult life, Dutch Uncles are obviously anxious. Their fourth studio album O Shudder marks this struggle between accepting responsibility and the desire to stay young. Where sex is no longer just fun but rather a considered act aimed at reproduction, the opening track ‘Babymaking’ voices this exact predicament, with frontman Duncan Wallis singing, “Cos you want my babies, baby?”
The opening of ‘Drips’, with two conversing clarinets, sounds like something from Watership Down. As its complexities unfold, revealing the signature flirty guitar and the tickling piano like audible water droplets, it becomes the most impressive track on the record. Wallis’s vocals are majestic, leaping about and flicking out short with precise syllables, yet still incomprehensible. With much going on elsewhere, it requires extra focus to appreciate the lyrics, but this is only one way Dutch Uncles hold your close attention hostage. Making it worth the wait, midway through all sound collapses, abandoning Wallis, quivering, “Could it be me?”
‘In and Out’ displays the nerdy doing sexy, jumping about, whilst being embedded in an atmospheric fur of synth. In a similar style, ‘Accelerate’ takes on the role of an 80s crime thriller, with descending guitar sliding in and out of jerky pop. ‘Be Right Back’, is super funky with the baseline creeping close into the foreground to take precedence. The hint of the female vocals is also a pleasurable shift from Wallis’s angst ridden chirping. If only the extended build up to each song could be sustained in their outros, which frequently arrive undesirably unexpected.
‘Tidal Weight’ speaks perhaps most clearly about Dutch Uncle’s reluctance to take responsibility, with Thom Yorke’s breath snatching lyrics, “I’m just a boy on the big shoulders. Who would imagine I could feel at home in a straight jacket?” Yet beneath all their seriousness of struggles and strife, Dutch Uncles never fail to keep your hips from swivelling. Their unwillingness to take hold of responsibility is prolonged through their pursuit of the unconventional. Their music need not follow any predicted route, so why should they?