Dutch Uncles – Rise Records, Bristol – Tuesday 15th January 2013
With HMV going into administration this week, the importance of places like Rise Records in Bristol cannot be overestimated.
On two floors in the trendy student area of Clifton, it has now undergone a refurbishment in which the ground floor is now a coffee shop, with the excellent music stock now limited to the first floor.
I won’t go into full details but just as an example, their Rockabilly section, as well as including the 50s and 60s classics, also includes The Cramps, who usually get incorrectly lumped in with Goth.
These guys know what they’re doing.
The other crucial addition is a space at the back of the coffee shop that turns into a music venue with a capacity of maybe 200.
This seems to be an excellent template for how independent record shops can survive in the current climate, and more power to them. They’ve announced loads more similar events – if you’re in the Bristol area check ’em out – Rise Records in Bristol and support your local indie record shop
Much like the Metropolitan Police back in the day counting people on demonstrations, I’m not great at estimating the size of crowds but there seem to be around 150 people here digging the magnificent sounds of the first buzz band of 2013, Dutch Uncles.
They’ve been around for a few years, putting out a couple of albums and building a bit of a following and some airplay. In an era where bands come into the public eye far too quickly, before they’re the finished article, this is a fine old-fashioned way of doing things, very much in keeping with the band’s stated love for 70s Prog and King Crimson in particular. Bands were allowed to develop in those days.
This is one of a few in-store gigs the band is doing to promote it. The deal is, you buy the album on CD or vinyl and you get a download code and two tickets to an in-store. Being as how I’m very old, I went for the Gold Vinyl option at £13, and to be honest I’d have paid that for one gig ticket so it’s a bargain.
I haven’t been to an instore gig for a while, and they can be hit and miss depending on whether the band sees it as a contractual engagement they’d rather not do or a proper gig. Dutch Uncles are firmly in the latter category.
They play for a good hour, tight, organised, effective. There is even room for some serious freaky dancing from lead singer / pianist Duncan Wallis. I need to see what he does on a big stage, dude’s got moves! Imagine Martin Fry of ABC without such an industrial consumption of pies.
They start off with a couple of hits from previous LP “Cadenza” before playing the bulk of the brand spanking new “Out Of Touch In The Wild”.
There are a lot of complex songs on OOTITW, but all are played with panache and brio. The singles “Fester” and “Flexxin” get the biggest cheers, having been featured on Radio One, or so I’m told.
The band wear their prog and art-rock influences proudly, but these songs are so much better, catchier and more danceable than anything King Crimson or Talking Heads ever came up with.
There are bits that remind me of Van der Graaf Generator, Japan, Neu!, Grammatics and XTC. As influences go, you can’t get much better than that for my money.
Often, particularly with complex songs, the trap for a band when playing live is to lose the subtleties and speed up too much. Dutch Uncles, on their third album, do neither of these things. Indeed, the songs are given new depths and meanings in a gig context – I’d love to hear a live album from them some time.
Meantime, I’d recommend the album to anybody with ears.