Dutch Uncles


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The Manchester indie scene may be renowned for producing loutish lad rock groups like Oasis, Happy Mondays, and Stone Roses, but in the 2000s it's been responsible for a wave of angular math rock acts who are just as likely to cite minimalist classical composer Steve Reich as an influence as they are the city's musical darlings the Smiths. Named after the term for "issuing criticism in order to educate," five-piece Dutch Uncles are yet another set of Mancunians who can join Everything Everything, Airship, and Egyptian Hip-Hop on the intellectual guitar band roll-call, as evident on their second album, Cadenza. Produced by Brendan Williams and Phil Bulleyment, the follow-up to their eponymous 2008 debut, which was strangely lapped up by European audiences but entirely ignored in their homeland, continues on the same eclectic path, constantly weaving intricate melodies, experimental rhythms, and unorthodox time signatures around lead singer Duncan Wallis' yelping vocals and eccentric lyrics. Comparisons with their fellow scenesters are inevitable, none more so than on the Foals-esque guitar lines of "Fragrant," the bouncing post-punk of "X-O," and the funky indie pop of "Orval." But the quintet prove they are capable of thinking outside the indie-disco box, as evident on the multi-layered harmonies of "Dolli," an almost a cappella Beach Boys pastiche which occasionally veers into lounge pop territory, the enchanting fusion of glockenspiels and shuffling rhythms on the lullaby-ish "The Rub," and the piano-driven Baroque pop of "OCDUC." Their relentless drive to push things forward sometimes backfires, such as on the muddily produced punk of "Dressage," where Wallis unwisely chooses to showcase his John Lydon impersonation, and the meandering sub-Vampire Weekend Afro-beat of closer "Zalo." But for those quick to claim that guitar music is dead, Cadenza is a sharp reminder that the genre still has plenty of life left in it yet.

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