By Tom Charles
Prog pop outfit Dutch Uncles’ third effort, ‘Out of Touch with the Wild,’ is a step back up from the band’s second album, but comes nowhere close to its first.
With Out of Touch in the Wild — the third album from Manchester baroque prog pop quintet Dutch Uncles (Memphis Industries, April 2) — the band intends to capture the splendor of its eponymous debut without being further pigeonholed to what’s a bit of a tongue-in-cheek genre. Dutch Uncles made an impact by repurposing prog rock affectations (unpredictable time signatures, staccato vocals) for a post-Vampire Weekend world. Songs began with zest, steadily introducing new layers and themes for reprisal throughout. Cadenza, the band’s sophomore follow-up, lost this sense of educated build. Each track jumped right into unchained madness, leaving Dutch Uncles only a hair shy of being categorized with candy-coated gimmick bands like Bomb the Music Industry! and Math the Band.
Out of Touch in the Wild attempts to fix the mistake that was Cadenza, but it seems Dutch Uncles lost its drive to experiment. Adorned with ornamental violin introductions (see the first thirty seconds of “Zug Zwang” and “Nometo”), half the album is spent building up to the band’s signature chaotic drops — but just before they deliver, Dutch Uncles remembers that’s what got it in trouble last time, so it nixes the drop and leaves the songs stagnant. Listening to three tracks stacked together gets tiring, but without any cuts in timing (“Fester”/“Threads”), Dutch Uncles loses the one thing that set it apart from other indie pop outfits. Vocalist Duncan Wallis sounds stale and breathless on tracks like “Phaedra” and “Brio” when backed by breezy glockenspiels instead of meaty electric guitar explosions, leaving his voice fleeting in the air.
“Flexxin” offers hope for future albums, reintroducing its melody several times on various instruments, as in a game of hide and seek. Out of Touch in the Wild is a positive step away from Cadenza but proves Dutch Uncles hasn’t yet hit its stride.