Dutch Uncles swell to new heights on fifth album 'Big Balloon'

Eccentric indie-pop collective, Dutch Uncles swell to new heights on their fifth album 'Big Balloon'. 

In many ways, 'Big Balloon' sounds like a reset on their near 10-year career. Whilst not a bad record, their fourth album 'Oh Shudder' was definitely something of a backwards step for the Manchester band who are famed for their use of atypical time signatures and infectious ear-worm melodies. 

The band sounded unsure of themselves, relying more on keeping to a tried and tested formula rather than making something they actually believed in. The results of this unfortunately showed and seemed to put an abrupt halt to the the upwards trajectory that they had been enjoying previously. 

Upon listening to this new album however, any thoughts that Dutch Uncles are destined to tumble for all eternity in the indie abyss are thwarted as soon as the opening bassline of the title track rumbles into life. 

Moving away from the marimba heavy sound of their past two releases, to the more stripped back guitar noise the band showcased in their infancy - 'Big Balloon' sounds like the band are back with a more commutable sound once again. 

With its soaring chorus and shimmering distorted guitar licks, the album's title track is unquestionably one of the best songs released in 2017, so far. Now a regular on BBC 6Music, this is a strutting funk rock track which gallops along with enough urgency to win the Grand National. Dutch Uncles have set their own quality marker for the rest of the album to follow. 

Highlights of the tracks that follow include the slow and vintage sounding 'Streetlight', the frenetic energy of 'Baskin' and the unstable sounding 'Same Plane Dream', which appears as if it may crash out of the speakers at any given moment. 

If there is one criticism of the album though, it is that it somewhat runs out of steam in its last quarter, presenting both slightly less memorable tracks that edge a bit too close to annoyance. 'Oh Yeah' in particular is undoubtedly catchy but does sound like the answer to an entirely unasked question; what would happen if Prince's 'Let's Go Crazy' was instead written by Kajagoogoo!

Questionable Prince worship aside, this is a highly enjoyable album and one that looks likely to be amongst 2017's very best. In combining both the aggressive assault of their early material with the more refined songwriting of their latter, Dutch Uncles have come through with their best album yet. 

If they keep on writing albums this confidently, then they look certain to soar high into the upper regions of the mainstream. Let's keep an eye on them and see how they fare. 

Words Jed Grainger

Take a listen to 'Big Balloon' below

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