Dutch Uncles

Out of Touch, In the Wild

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Reading about Dutch Uncles' eclectic influences -- which include Steve Reich, XTC, and Prince -- makes their music seem a lot more eccentric than it actually is, particularly on Out of Touch, In the Wild. The band conceived the album as a studio piece, with arrangements incorporating strings, keyboards, and pianos rather than the guitars that dominated Dutch Uncles and Cadenza. More often than not, the results sound like what might happen if Hot Chip and Field Music had a well-mannered but slightly odd musical baby: Duncan Wallis' crooning tenor glides over songs that change keys and time signatures in the blink of an eye and instrumentation that bounces all over the place, yet is still very much in the pop realm. If anything, Dutch Uncles do such a good job of melding their influences and ideas that Out of Touch, In the Wild borders on being too consistent. While things are never exactly monotonous, the similar tempos and tone of Wallis' voice make many of these songs blend together rather than stand out on the first few listens. Fortunately, this isn't a problem on the album's singles, which showcase Dutch Uncles at their finest. "Fester" coalesces crisp tuned percussion, a melody that slants in unexpected directions, and thoughtful lyrics ("There's a time to hide everything/The way that you are") into a subtle but definite groove; "Flexxin" gives the album's chamber pop leanings a kick in the pants to get on the dancefloor. Other highlights include "Godboy," which allows the emotional undercurrents of their largely cerebral approach to come to the fore, and the album closer "Brio," an aptly named workout set to a forceful motorik rhythm that shows Dutch Uncles haven't completely given up on rock. With each release, the band has tweaked and honed its sound, but a little less refinement might go a long way on its next album. Nevertheless, even if Out of Touch, In the Wild is missing some of the bite of Dutch Uncles' earlier music, its brainy pop is always intriguing.

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