Dutch Uncles, Manchester’s much-revered electro art rock quartet, return with their long-awaited sixth album, True Entertainment (released 10th March 2023 on Memphis Industries).
Taking inspiration from Yellow Magic Orchestra, Prince, Steely Dan, Ennio Morricone, The Blue Nile, Kate Bush and Roxy Music, “True Entertainment behaves like it knows it’s been away for some time, and doesn’t apologise for that,” jokes vocalist / lyricist Duncan Wallis. “Ultimately, it’s written with the mindset that on our sixth album, we’re only in competition with ourselves when it comes to finding satisfaction in our craft.”
True to this mantra, True Entertainment bears some of the most delightfully fun Dutch Uncles music to date; paired with some of their most existential and introspective lyrics. What is success? Am I enough? How can I better? (and can I even afford to be better?)
The title was a DJ name bestowed upon Wallis by guitarist Peter Broadhead. Wallis, an in-demand DJ and compare in his native city, wrote the acid house and Sign O’ The Times-era Prince-influenced title track when reflecting on the awkwardness he sometimes feels when he’s recognised as the singer in a band while working one of his many public-facing jobs.
Party anthem and future single “Tropigala (2 to 5)” features backing vocals from Metronomy’s Anna Prior. The irresistible refrain “Working 2 to 5… what a way to make NO living…” was perfected while loading in and out of rehearsals during the band’s leaner years., while the title and verses refer to a scene in The Godfather: Part II.
“Deep End” – an absurdist, 80s/90s-tinged composition (imagine a Daft Punk and Frankie Goes To Hollywood collaboration, backed by Interpol’s rhythm section) – details the lifestyle choices 20- and 30-somethings make to have morally sound, yet socially and financially viable, lives. Wallis: “not going to Wetherspoons, not even for the cheap chips, accepting you’ll need two jobs ‘til you die, the constant conflict of self-aware vs self-care”
Jonathan Higgs of Everything Everything is another guest vocalist, appearing on “Damascenes” (about Wallis’ own Damascene moment on a trip to Glasgow in 2019, which ultimately prompted him to start writing for the new record). The track is built on the juxtaposition between erratic opening synths and emotive piano chords.
The album’s centrepiece is “I’m Not Your Dad”, detailing Wallis’ experiences after his parents separated: “split Christmases and New Years Eve with people you no longer trust, having to get used to new pieces of furniture, unworn bedrooms, all the while having to accept being mistrusted just for being a kid”.
“It’s our musical imagination of an Ennio Morricone progressive punk (pronk) space opera,” adds Robin Richards. “Tubular bells and wiry guitars synonymous with the sound of spaghetti westerns, but with futuristic synths.”
“Poppin’”, primarily composed by Peter Broadhead, was inspired by the Brian Eno-produced Talking Heads albums and is a minimal take on the age old anxieties, dread and fear we all experience at certain times: “bumping into old faces hungover (or worse, not hungover), taking too long to answer the question ‘you alright?’, forgetting everyone’s name and constantly assessing if old faces were present at any moments of particular cringe in your past.”
While Richards remains Dutch Uncles’ principle composer, the lockdowns of 2020 and 2021 prompted other members to contribute musical ideas: the result being their most collaborative album to date. This is evidenced further by Henry Broadhead and Neil Wright (live synth player and live guitarist, respectively) stepping up to production duties alongside the band themselves. Henry Broadhead also mixed the album with Andrew Proudfoot, and it was mastered by Matt Colton (Pet Shop Boys, Christine And The Queens et al).
True Entertainment is the long-awaited follow up to Big Balloon (2017), an album which spawned three playlisted singles on BBC Radio 6 Music and enjoyed widespread acclaim from the likes of Uncut (“a high flying triumph” 8/10), The Guardian (“its songs barge in with urgency” 4*), The Quietus, DIY, Exclaim!, Q, Under the Radar and many, many more.
Dutch Uncles are Andrew Proudfoot (the drums), Duncan Wallis (vocals and piano), Robin Richards (bass) and Peter Broadhead (guitar, synth and electronics). They are joined live by Henry Broadhead (synth and percussion) and Neil Wright (guitar).