Skip to main content
A Magazine for

The Manchester edition of Now Then is no longer publishing content. Visit the Sheffield edition.

Dutch Uncles Big Balloon

Some of the most exhilarating moments come when you manage to snatch a moment of stillness.

Released: 17 February 2017
Big Balloon

Hummingbirds are bloody difficult to photograph. It’s nigh impossible to catch a glimpse of what the wings of the birds look like because they’re constantly flapping at unfathomable speed. You just end up with a picture of a blur. It’s similarly difficult to put a pin in Dutch Uncles. On past efforts and on this, their fifth album, they refuse to stay still.

It’s not as self-consciously cerebral or formalistic as math pop, nor as formulaically indebted to Gang of Four as is much art rock, but Big Balloon nonetheless gets a significant amount of its forward momentum from Andy Proudfoot hammering his drums on the offbeat, Pete Broadhead’s jangling guitar chords and keyboard lines characteristic of those subgenres.

“I get so excited / ‘Til I can’t talk about it,” frontman Duncan Wallis sings, as if by way of explanation, in a similarly nervous blue-eyed soul voice to Alexis Taylor of Hot Chip or Field Music’s Brewis brothers. ‘Same Plain Dream’ and ‘Combo Box’ here particularly recall the Mackem twosome thanks to a metallic bassline from Robin Richards.

The rest of the record rockets along with enough energy to force the rhythm of your own pulse to match it, but some of the most exhilarating moments come when you do manage to snatch a moment of stillness. Wallis’s voice unaccompanied returns on ‘Baskin’, before a juddering van de Graaf of electronic buzz, while the baroque strings of ‘Achameleon’ resemble the later, studio-bound records of XTC.