Sometimes it s better to take the byroads. Walking the backstreets rather than the high street may mean a longer journey, but it s where the character and quirks, the very heart of a town can be found. And character, quirk and heart is certainly what Dutch Uncles developed between forming five years ago in the Manchester burb of Marple and finishing their first album for Memphis Industries, Cadenza. In addition to the cross-dressing videos and live shows in churches with ten-piece orchestras, the album puts clear blue water between them and the dreary Mancunian macho-rock clichés of the recent and not so recent past. The band recorded Cadenza last summer, locked in a Salford basement experimenting and stretching their songs into new and unexpected shapes. Produced by Brendan Williams and Phil Bulleyment, it draws on the eccentricities of Sparks, the piano methods of Steve Reich and the unhinged prog-pop of the Cardiacs, while maintaining at its heart a real pop pulse. This is highbrow pop unashamed of its pretension and ambition while staying fit to bust with hooks. Take the title track: the infectious rhythmic Italo House piano opening and peculiarly catchy, looping sea-shanty guitar riff provide the hooks, while Duncan Wallis s vocals are exquisitely counterpoised, drawing from his experience of being a pallbearer at his grandmother s funeral in a surprisingly uplifting way. Fragrant brings the band s pop know-how right to the fore. Precisely woven melodies and whip-smart guitar lines frame Wallis s spidery lyricism, combing to forge a chrome-plated future pop classic. Then there s Dressage, all frenzied guitars, full-throttle pace and ping pong melodies. But Cadenza also shows off Dutch Uncles more reflective side. Dolli is a lilting, mostly a cappella piece, and The Rub sees Wallis s plaintive refrain framed by vibraphones, xylophone and glockenspiel. As Wallis says of the album, It s definitely pop music but hopefully with a little bit more for the listener to scratch beneath the surface. Having taken the scenic route, Dutch Uncles have finally arrived at their destination, and you know what? It s been well worth the wait.
... endless grooves spreading quicker than an infection on an NHS ward. --NME Magazine
.. one of 11 s most exciting prospects. --The Fly
... from the XTC school of complex time-signatures, Talking Heads go math-pop.... --The Times