If some cruel person only let you listen to the piano-led melodies of ‘Achameleon’ or the orchestral manoeuvres of closer ‘Overton,’ you’d probably end up thinking that Dutch Uncles had produced yet another tightly-crafted pop record. Indeed, if you’re used to the band producing tunes heavy with strings and synths, prepare to be surprised: fifth album ‘Big Balloon’ is something of a trip back into the left-field, tricky rock they were making at the start of the decade. Well, with a few techno flourishes and even more witty lyrics about austerity, therapy, David Bowie’s brain and fried chicken (obv) thrown in.
The meaty, nagging guitars and pounding drums of the energetic title track alone should be enough to convince anyone that this move is indeed a Good Thing. If not, then the almost krautrock licks and singer Duncan Wallis’ invigorated performance on ‘Same Plane Dream,’ or the combination of indie riffs and reverberating Europop electronics found on ‘Streetlight’ almost certainly will. In fact, the flashes of classic chamber-pop conventions that rear their heads on ‘Big Balloon’ help to form an accessible bridge into their new sound while still sounding fresh and bold. ‘Baskin’ and ‘Hiccup’ are given even more punch with sudden swoops of strings in the mix.
Meanwhile, ‘Oh Yeah,’ (which features Stealing Sheep and Everything Everything) is like what would happen if Devo set about trying to make a bona fide chart hit. Sure, there’s fewer marimbas on offer here, but Dutch Uncles have still served up a finger-lickin’ feast.