(Memphis Industries) UK release date: 10 March 2023
Six years on from Big Balloon arrives a terrific comeback that’s as truly entertaining as the title promises
It’s been such a long time since we last heard from Dutch Uncles, you’d be forgiven for thinking they’d quietly split up. It was back in 2017 that the excellent Big Balloon was released, and since then there’s been a prolonged silence. From the first note of the opening title track on True Entertainment though, it’s like welcoming back an old friend.
For the old touches that made Dutch Uncles so consistently excellent are all present and correct – the jerky guitar rhythms, Duncan Wallis’ vocals which sometimes recall Wild Beasts‘ Hayden Thorpe, and lyrics that can be both funny and profound. That opening track has a first line of “I can’t complain, you’re going through hell,” before going on to say “did I tell you she was a French teacher, ooh la la, parfait” and ending on a description of “I’m Mr Right side of tragic end.”
It’s also a lot of fun trying to spot the musical reference. There are nods to Daft Punk at the start of Poppin’, while Tropigala (2 To 5) has a very obvious reference to one of Dolly Parton‘s most famous songs. It’s also, quite comfortably, one of the most insanely catchy songs you’ll hear all year. There are some shades of Tears For Fears during the record’s second half, especially on tracks like I’m Not Your Dad, while Wallis’ breathy vocals on End Belief bring to mind Bryan Ferry at times.
It’s also a relentlessly funky album, even in its darker moments. The aforementioned I’m Not Your Dad tells stories from Wallis’ experiences as a child of divorced parents: “split Christmases and New Years Eve with people you no longer trust” is one line that cuts to the bone. Elsewhere, the jerky energy of Poppin seems to tap into a bottomless well of anxiety – “fear somebody who’s near, who stumbled so near” runs one lyric.
There’s an impressive range of guest names on the album too – Jonathan Higgs from Everything Everything can be heard on Damascenes, about the moment that Wallis was inspired to start writing music again, and Anna Prior of Metronomy guests on In Salvia, one of the few melancholy, wistful tracks to be found on the record.
The closing Dead Letter just goes all out on the bizarre lyrical imagery – there’s mention of “centrist gonorrhoea” and “give it a whoopty-doo from my dead Grandma to you”, and even (just about) manages to get away with using the phrase “coinkydink” for perhaps the first time in recorded music. Even here though, where you’re not exactly sure what they’re talking about, the hooks and rhythms that the band create are so infectious, you can turn a blind eye to some of the more abstract lyrics.
It all makes for a terrific comeback for a band that have been very much missed over the last few years. As truly entertaining as the title promises, in fact.