Manchester art-poppers Dutch Uncles’ follow-up to 2015’s O Shudder sees the four-piece develop their complex pop in brave and unexpected ways, even though some of it slightly misses the mark.
Opening their fifth album with its title track, "Big Balloon" kicks proceedings off with an infectious melody and even catchier chorus. The song drifts to an end as vocalist Duncan Wallis implores you to "make me swoon like a big balloon", knowing perfectly well that's the effect the song's having on all of us.
"Combo Box" takes things in a different direction altogether. The stomping, '70s indebted number is a clap-along crowd pleaser that fizzes with sleek and thrilling instrumentation, although it still feels like something isn't quite clicking in to place.
Keeping up the fast pace is "Oh Yeah", a breakneck song laced with a sprinting drumbeat. Although it's positioned proudly at the front of the records, it fails to land, sounding too similar to much of the rest of Big Balloon.
The menacing thump of "Same Plane Dream" is undoubtedly the highlight of the entire album, with Wallis' rich, layered and all-conquering vocals carrying the song through until it reaches a wonderful climax. An initial listen of "Sink" however might have you questioning if you've been listening to the same song on repeat for the entirety of the LP's duration.
It might not be all we'd hoped for, and could certainly benefit from some variety, but there are just about enough standouts here to keep admirers interested.