So the well-toned, thinner-looking and presumably fitter Dutch Uncles braved the rigours of King Heath for the fifth time, with marvellous new tunes, new jackets, and new merch in tow. They seem to like the venue and its idiosyncrasies; the walk through the crowd to the compact stage and being almost on top of the audience. Add to that the decent attendance and a lot of heat and we had a suitable atmosphere to showcase the new material.
New album Big Balloon takes a leap forward whilst harking back to the more angular, sharper sounds of early albums and shows a departure from 2015’s more mellow, funkier O Shudder. Guitars are much more to the fore and the volume has been turned up a notch. Just the thing for testing out the Hare and Hound’s shiny new PA system.
As were Her’s programmed back beats. The Liverpool-based duo were a pleasant surprise. Sometimes it’s better not to do too much research and in this case it wouldn’t have done me much good either, as the usual crop of lazy pundits seemed to pigeonhole them as some sort of surf band; presumably [IG1] [IG2] on the strength of one tune, Speed Racer. They are best described with reference to other musicians. Imagine Orange Juice with Johnny Marr guitar licks, and with Andy McClusky’s bass sound, and more importantly, on the part of Auden Laading, Andy McClusky’s moves. Partner-in -crime Stephen Fitzpatrick showed a deceptive vocal range on the tunes from the forthcoming Songs of Her’s album. It would be good to see them again, and with a longer set.
The Andy McClusky theme was carried by the DJ who was laying down a serious 1980’s feel around the bands. It’s not often that the more danceable tunes by OMD, Quango Quango, Gang Of Four, XTC, China Crisis and PiL are on show so perhaps he was making his own statement about Dutch Uncles. He even threw in a Kajagoogoo remix.
Not that Dutch Uncles were looking back; their first two tunes were from the new album. Baskin’ is a signature Dutch Uncles tune but with a driving, direct approach that would not have been out of place in their set nine years ago. Same Plane Dream took them back into a familiar syncopated territory but with added bite.
Guitars were to the fore, which seemed to be a deliberate move. “Punk Rock” Pete Broadhead and touring guitarist Neil Wright flanked the rest of the band which included the return, after a brief absence, of Pete’s brother Henry, another touring member. It turned out to be Henry’s 27th birthday; the rock’n’roll birthday, with only 364 more days for Henry to look after himself. As a reward he was allowed to use whatever sounds he wanted in the synth solo at the end of Flexxin’ and he didn’t disappoint.
More recent session live videos had shown a somewhat sedate approach from Duncan Wallis, to go along with the more uniform band image. This was left in the dressing room tonight. He was at his individualistic best; as usual in perpetual motion to the complicated beats, laid down by Robin Richards and Andy Proudfoot.
It’s always tricky to review a favourite and Dutch Uncles have been on top of the pile at Brumlive Towers for years. I’ve said a lot of what can be said about them in previous reviews. All I can say is stop taking my word for it and get to see them at an establishment near you soon. The encore of Overton, which has an ending that is about five minutes too short in my opinion, Flexxin and Dressage; complete with intro of Duncan’s choice, are worth the experience on their own.
Dutch Uncles Set List
Same Plane Dream
I Owe Someone For Everything
Words: Ian Gelling
Photographs: Stephanie Colledge