A sell out crowd at Manchester's Gorilla bar witnessed the triumphant homecoming of the Dutch Uncles as the climax of a national headline tour to support their recently released third album "Out of Touch In The Wild" - Paul Holloway who presents live music showcase The Guest List on Stockport's radio station Pure 107.8FM, felt privileged to be there.
It was the finale of a ten date headline tour for the quirky five piece from Marple, the leafiest suburb of Stockport. And some of Manchester music's leading luminaries were in attendance; Smith's drummer Andy Joyce, who is a long term supporter of the band and Marc 'Lard' Reilly who seemed to really be getting into the set. I watched the gig with Ian & Claire, guitarist Dan Spedding is teaching their daughter to play. www.spedspedding.co.uk. He had told them the band had been a little apprehensive the Manchester gig had not sold out as quickly as their dates in London and Brighton. They need not have worried, the 600 capacity live music venue sold out with a week to spare. Touts were offering spares at three and a half times face value as the expectant cue stretched back around the corner into Whitworth Street. Now cards on the table time - I've been championing the Dutch Uncles to anybody who'll listen for a while now. Five years ago they came into the studio at Pure 107.8FM, I'd never heard of them before, just another young local band - we get a lot in. They didn't play a session but passed me a two track demo CD with 'Face In' and 'Steadycam' - I was instantly hooked and have been ever since. I've sat in a studio with scores of local bands but these guys are by far the most exciting. Let's be honest we all like to be able to say I was into a band from the beginning before they hit the big time - so come on Dutch Uncles it's time to realise your potential so I can start bragging / boring people.
The anticipation was building as was the crowd in Gorilla's back bar music venue built under the railway viaduct arches. As support act Cove completed their set to an appreciate audience, the room steadily filled until the Dutch Uncles took to the stage shortly before ten to the warmest of welcomes - this was after all a home match. It's hard to define the Dutch Uncles they don't conform to rock or pop conventions, which is probably a big factor of their appeal and maybe an explanation as to why they are not getting the media attention they deserve. I don't think I've ever seen another band with dueling xylophones; (or to be precise a marimba and a xylophone – at least I think it was I’m not an expert) as a couple of songs into the set vocalist Duncan Wallis swapped his keyboard and squared up to guitarist Peter Boardman for a xylophone face off for "Fester" the first single from the new album - it already feels like a familiar friend having been released as a free download from the band's website since last September.
The band is very much in the zone but still appreciative of the reception in what is a landmark gig in (hopefully) their upwardly projecting career. The rhythm section is tight and feeling the grove, with Andy Prudfoot on drums and bass player Robin Richards focused and moving with the unorthodox timing sections with have become synonymous with the band. The set was predominately taken from 'Out of Touch...' but O-X, The Ink, Dressage and title track Cadenza all make an appearance from the second album. The second single of the new album 'Flexxin' was also well received - the video of which showcases Duncan's dancing. He is the most unlikely pop star but he certainly has charisma and a unique stage presence. He spends more time sat behind the keyboards or tickling the xylophone playing the new material. It's a shame we can't clone him as his stage persona which radiates eccentricity and nervous energy is strangely hypnotic.
They are one of those bands that can be tricky to put in a box - are they Math pop, art rock, post-Britpop, indie prog or even baroque synth pop? Whatever that means, but you get the idea. They are a bit of all these - that's what makes them interesting. However, the Dutch Uncles are part of one of popular music's most unlikely scenes. Together with Delphic and Egyptian Hip-Hop they hail from the sleepy suburbs of Marple and Marple Bridge. It's where Stockport meets the Peak District, with one road in and out. The cultural highlight of the Marple calendar is when the Cricket Club gets a host of ales in and there are foodie stalls in the precinct for the annual food and drink festival. Not the location you would except to find a cutting edge alternative music scene. But together with Manchester based Mercury nominated Everything Everything, the Marple trio of bands is a part of an experimental Manchester indie new wave movement.
It's surprising that the Dutch Uncles have not managed to receive the same attention as their contemporaries. While Delphic and Everything Everything have both scored top 10 albums and Egyptian Hip-Hop became darlings of the NME (only failing to capitalise on their momentum but taking 18 months to release their debut album); the Dutch Uncles seem to have missed the recognition they deserve. Is it the abstract one word song titles about musical terminology (Cadenza & Brio) and chess moves (Zugzwang)? True, they take their music seriously but there are enough pop sensibilities in here to not be a seriously challenging listen. They are not too po-faced to laugh at themselves. Their video for The Ink demonstrates a wry sense of humour as Duncan takes a bath and Robin bushes his teeth in the bathroom while Dan is sat on the toilet. Drummer Andy takes the sensible option of waiting outside.
Whatever the reason I can't understand how the likes of Londoners Bastille are getting hyped to the hilt whilst the Dutch Uncles remain one of Manchester best kept secret.NME gave ‘Out of Touch…” 8/10 saying “They may not be the most hyped current Manchester band, or the one with the most vocal hometown support, but Dutch Uncles might be the best.” Well there was plenty of vocal hometown support in Gorilla. The set comes to a climax with the frenetic Dressage followed by 'Out of Touch's...' finale Brio - which appropriately means to play with gusto. There is real love and appreciation in the room as the lads return for an encore with first single Face In followed by a cover of Grace Jones' Slave To The Rhythm (Duncan resisted the temptation to pull out a pink hoola-hoop).
I was lucky to join the Dutch Uncles at Eve Studios in Bredbury a couple of weeks before the gig when they were recording their Grace Jones cover for Record Store Day. Which this year is on 20th April. However, being the Dutch Uncles is entitled 'Slave To The Atypical Rhythm'. To find out how you can get a copy and support your local independent visit www.recordstoreday.com And you can hear me taking to front man Duncan Wallis and bass player Robin Richards using the link to the Pure 107.8FM podcast below: http://podcast.pureradio.org.uk/index.php?id=1983
Eve Studios is an idiosyncratic setting to record music, which used to be a church warden’s home, they only use old school analogue recording equipment and the place resembles a shared student house. Duncan and Robin made me very welcome and told me how Snoop Dogg has used the studio, but I’m still not sure if they were pulling my leg. I just can’t imagine Snoop and his entourage popping out to Leonard’s Newsagents to buy supplies. If you missed the Dutch Uncles this time round, don’t panic they are touring again in May details are on their website www.dutchuncles.co.uk which is also offering bundle deals to receive the album in a format of your choice, ticket to a gig and a t-shirt. Go on treat yourself.(Pic of Robin & Duncan at Eve)
Review/photos by Paul Holloway
Paul Holloway presents the Guest List on Pure 107.8FM 7pm Tuesdays & Fuzzbox 10pm Fridays on Stockport’s 107.8FM