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Posted on April 13th, 2015 (3:00 pm) by N. Neal Paradise

Seriously, what’s so great about the 1980s? They might hold a kind of mystique to anyone under 25, but not to people who actually lived through them. So why do countless groups feel the need to continually resurrect that decade like an unlucky zombie? Aren’t there much more important things which can occupy our time? Like folding socks or finding a more efficient toothbrush?

Not for Dutch Uncles. Granted, they’re using British ‘80s pop to serve their erudite interests and finding shiny tidbits amidst the rubble, but we at IYS wonder if there aren’t better ways to come up with the same or similar things. Sure, Lady Gaga rocked a dress made of raw meat, but wouldn’t silk or cotton have been less clammy on her skin? Likewise, Dutch Uncles are presenting music that is really interesting with their fourth album O Shudder, but it encourages shrugged shoulders rather than dropped jaws or delighted smiles.

Strange time signatures abound on O Shudder, which has become Dutch Uncles’ stock in trade, as well as bright guitars and shiny synths. With the first track, “Babymaking,” these elements are a little off-putting. “Babymaking” skitters nervously, Duncan Wells working his androgynous voice to create an unsure, vaguely sexual undercurrent that’s to be commended. “Drips,” on the other hand, is off-kilter without being urgent or unsettling. It uses the weird rhythm as a canvas for painting on rather than making them the central figure in the painting. “Upsilon” and “In n Out” do much better with consistent groove, and both songs sustain the listener’s excitement. Later, on “Tidal Weight,” that fade-in-fade-out lack of groove serves them well, surprisingly. Dutch Uncles are just variegated enough to deftly avoid looking like hacks, even if they are mining territory that’s been well-stripped.

However, throughout O Shudder’s entire runtime, the faux-Talking Heads motif is so inescapable that it ceases to be a harmless affectation and turns into a shtick. Dutch Uncles aren’t doing it on purpose, for sure, but the effect is the same. All this synthy abandon just comes off as overbearing. Computerization can be a very good thing, as the EDM boom of the new millennium proves, but throwbacks to one of the cheesiest and most maudlin periods of computer-based music kinda ruins that. Even if the throwback is as edifying and intentional as O Shudder, it’s really difficult to see Dutch Uncles as doing anything other than spinning their wheels.

Track List:

  1. Babymaking
  2. Upsilon
  3. Drips
  4. Decided Knowledge
  5. I Should Have Read
  6. In n Out
  7. Given Thing
  8. Don't Sit Back (Frankie Said)
  9. Accelerate
  10. Tidal Weight
  11. Be Right Back
Dutch Uncles: O Shudder
Purchase at: Amazon | eMusic

Our Rating

53 / 100
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