Underworld | Barking (Om)

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The seven-minute “Always Loved a Film” ups the ante with the duo’s best offering since the brilliant “Born Slippy” of Trainspotting soundtrack fame.

I fell in love with this album from the first beat and have had it on repeat ever since. I’ve long been a fan of London duo Karl Hyde and Rick Smith, way back from their initial 1980s releases (back when the band was—gasp!—an indie rock act). Admittedly, they lost me a bit with the overly techno stuff (basically much of the intervening years since then), but when they’re on, they’re on.

And with the newly released Barking, Underworld turns it on and never stops. Leadoff track “Bird 1” is a low-level groover, a laidback club song for the end of the night when everyone sprawls on couches, tired but content. The seven-minute “Always Loved a Film” ups the ante with the duo’s best offering since the brilliant “Born Slippy” of Trainspotting soundtrack fame. The very simple refrain of “Heaven, heaven, heaven, heaven—can you feel it?” is uplifting and inspiring, gorgeous and inviting. “And I don’t know if I love you more than the way you used to love me,” sings Hyde. “And I don’t know if I need you more than the way you used to need me.” Rest assured, Mr. Hyde; at this point we are putty in your hands. In other words, we both love and need you.

“Scribble” is pure dance floor glory, its high energy yielding to the downtempo grooves of “Hamburg Hotel.” Lyrics return with “Grace,” an understated, synth-heavy song which finds Hyde lamenting, “This is not what I expected.” If you’re listening in your car, “Between Stars” will have you dancing in your seat. It’s a hip-shaker, to be sure, yet it remains in check, always pushing at the boundaries without going too far.

Of the nine tracks on Barking, “Diamond Jigsaw” comes closest to being a pop song. It’s still electronic-based and identifiably Underworld. Structure-wise, though, it’s a more straightforward verse-chorus-verse format. Still a killer song, though. Whereas “Moon in Water” is defined by female spoken word over mellow beats, disc-closer “Louisiana” takes things down another notch as Underworld deliver a haunting, piano-laden farewell.

The songs have plenty of repetition, both lyrically and groove-ically; what they also have, though, is build, in that rarely does a song stay the same for very long. By implementing the repeated rhythms and lines, Underworld manages to whet its listeners’ appetites, inviting audiences in while delaying the always-ascending peak. A | Laura Hamlett

RIYL: LCD Soundsystem, The Future Sounds of London, Moby

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