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Today sees the release of Dutch Uncles new record ‘O Shudder’. Recorded in Wales and Salford with long term collaborator Brendan Williams and features a cameo from Liverpool three piece Stealing Sheep, lead singer Duncan Wallis describes the themes of the record as being “more personal and direct than before with reflections on pregnancy, terrorism, school discos, divorce, health scares, sexual dysfunction and job-seeking”. We were lucky enough to have Wallis go through the album track by track.
This song is about the conversation some couples engage in about their suitability to have kids. Although it’s a common topic, the song reflects upon the spiky and frustrating nature of it, and how increasingly damaging it becomes the more you focus on it. It felt like an appropriate opener for the album as it laid out our intentions for more mature themes and at the same time sparked the question of suitability and maturity with which the rest of the album tries to answer.
Interesting fact: I had to record the vocals for this song in my pants. I kept getting so frustrated with the lack of sexiness in the track, that I had to take off an item of clothing every time I stormed out of the recording booth in order to cleanse my mindset.
This was the first song that helped us shape the album. It’s the first of a number of songs that look back at the folly and unnecessary drama of youth. In this instance, it is about an over dramatic decision to quit Facebook (or Myspace), because when you’re young, you don’t always have the capacity to see other people’s lives (or the bits they want to show you at least) for what they really are. This is also a result of the immense peer pressure to join in with the flirt of social media.
This song is about getting a second chance at a sexual fumble in a dream state. Again it is looking back to youth whilst commenting in the present, and how it would be different this time around. Humorously, the protagonist references getting struck down with a sexual disease in the dream as a result of getting their way, in an attempt to downplay the significance and excitement of the act itself, now that it is not so mysterious and unattainable. The album title comes from this track, which was picked to highlight the common thread through the album of the constant un-readiness and reaction to situations at face value.
This song is about failing a council job interview I had earlier this year. Not that I would arrogantly shift the blame of failing it onto anyone else, it was just a disappointing experience to be judged solely on box ticking skills without any consideration for character or appropriate life experience. I suppose it feels tricky when you've been in a band for so long, to prove your worth in any other fields of work where people can be a lot more protective and exaggerated about their own professions. In a similar way to "Upsilon", the song takes the situation at face value without really recognising the problem (in this case being, that an interview is an art form to be manipulated, and shouldn't involve being truthful if it's potentially damaging to your character). Instead it goes on to make a quick reactionary conclusion, further highlighting the protagonists un-readiness that is evident throughout the album.
I Should Have Read
In a similar fashion to Drips, this song is another retrospective look on a sexual fumbling but highlights the importance of reading a situation rather than performing in one. Again, similar to "Upsilon", the song highlights the regret of succumbing to peer pressures by one teen undressing another in a blank fashion because they feel that this is what that person wants, when in fact they are very wrong. In relation to the album, the song supports the character of "Babymaking" who has always tried to grow up too fast.
In n Out
This song is a reaction to earlier sexual yearnings on the album. It highlights the increasing desperation for sexual activity with age, by being a gender-less approach to convincing friends into fornication with a matter of fact approach and some bad grammar. It could possibly be a case of highlighting the difficulty of living with the instant gratification culture we are served with in every other aspect of socialising.
This is another sex song that almost plays up as a part two to 'In n Out' by focusing on the increasingly narcissistic nature of sex. This time the protagonist pleads with their partner to let them in on their secrets and desires, but is met with a faceless and enduring performance in the bedroom. Unfortunately for the protagonist they do not know whether the enduring quality is an attempt to show off or more probably because of a lack of communication.
Don’t Sit Back (Frankie Said)
This is about the sexualisation of modern pop music. The song depicts the frustrations seen (or not seen) so many times on dancefloors where people like each other but don’t have the minerals to do anything about it. The song points out that if they’d been paying attention to songs by Frankie Goes to Hollywood and Mousse T etc. when they were younger at school discos, they would be more prepared for this moment. I originally wanted to call the song "Don’t Relax", as a warped interpretation of Holly Johnson's lyrics and to reference the need for urgency and gumption in the scenario. For some I reason I didn't call it that, can’t remember why now.
This song is about acknowledging the ordinary and clichéd feelings towards a long term relationship, but not wanting it to end for fear of change. Almost a "Babymaking" part two but the break up, if you will. Stylistically, it was inspired by Christine McVie and Hall and Oates, as it attempts to represent an emotional stalemate in a dancefloor environment (as a sequel to "Don’t Sit Back" as well). In a way, this is the end of the journey for the question proposed in "Babymaking", as the reality of this ‘safety net’ relationship is exposed and thus should not be continued. At the same time, the sadness brings with it clarity. As the protagonist says “you know it’s a loving fire and you know I’m a loving child” in a defiant moment of character, they admit that it's okay to mess up or to have made a mistake for so long in their life.
As a final act to the narrative, this song is about health scares and never getting used to the body changing as we age. At bedtime, crippled by the situations and memories that have played out, the protagonist's lament has manifested itself into something almost physical, which leads them to dwell on a feeling of ultimate unending loneliness.
Be Right Back
The spark for this song came from posing the question about the existence of heaven but in the album it acts as an epilogue that focuses on the problems that an agnostic view towards religion and politics creates. The song looks at the possible foundations of starting a religion, by creating social classes and using fear as a tool for order. The chorus then brings this to the present day by pointing out the lack of evidence (I see no escalators is a reference to many films and cartoons that have depicted the journey to heaven, the one I had in mind at the time was Monty Pythons: Meaning Of Life, although I don’t actually recall it using escalators to help with the ascending). The second verse then highlights the evolution of this fear in modern society, and how certain religions are damaged through the representation of extremism. It also points at the diversion tactics of the current government to blame the weakest in our society. The third verse acts as an inevitable call to arms, that although an agnostic view towards religion and a confusing political climate has been encouraged and implemented for some time, like all things it's reached a breaking point. The song ends by assuming that people still won't do much about it though, and it will somehow go on broken.
O Shudder is out now
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