Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Dutch Uncles: True Entertainment Review – dazzling entertainment to dance to | Indie

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Other press rang the XTC/Talking Heads complex pop alarm and I guess that’s not wrong exactly but at this remove it feels as if they were pigeonholed a little too swiftly and all too neatly, possibly removing them from the attention of listeners who felt they already had their fill of that particular musical niche.

Undeterred the band quietly went about creating a rich and rewarding body of work, perhaps peaking with the ambitiously sophisticated and outright humour-filled, O Shudder, before maintaining a respectable cruising altitude with 2017’s Big Balloon. (In future decades pop archaeologists will unearth these records and wonder why they slipped beneath the radar, but of course, the pop world is cruel and arbitrary). And then, for six long years silence. But now into the drunken nightmare world of 2023 comes the boldly – or possibly ambiguously – titled True Entertainment.

The advice often given to any writer is, to drop a killer first line and reel your audience in. Well the title track’s, and the album’s, opening gambit, “I can’t complain, you’re going through hell” insouciantly ticks that requirement off the list.

There’s something here that probes the conflicts of making art, of any sort, and still living a normal life that naturally requires working to survive. The upside of being outside the gilded cage is that all the stimulation and yes, struggle, has nowhere else to go but into the music.

But not normally music as joyously freewheeling as this. Dutch Uncles can throw in a philosophical insight while laughing at themselves and surreptitiously shoving you out on the dance floor. This is multi-faceted sophisti-pop of the highest grade, sweeping through the late ’70s, careering into the ’80s greats and salting it all with a smidgen of acid house mayhem. It’s a breathless ride.

Two songs in, “Damescenes” is an insight into an emotional simplicity that belies the complex pop tag: electro squiggle underpinned by bittersweet Blue Nile-style piano, deeply textured bass notes used sparingly, leaving two guitars to tell different tales, one mildly funky the other pensively spectral. They make it sound so easy.

When perpetual existential anxiety is the omnipresent order of the day, any band that can keep us dancing and thinking have to be worth their weight in anxiety meds. An album promising to be, with a sly wink, True Entertainment, turns out to be all that and way, way more.

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