Underworld: Barking

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Underworld

Album: Barking
Label: Om

Underworld spent the ’90s selling techno that was bulked up by rock-serious signifiers, particularly Karl Hyde’s stream-of-consciousness vocal rants and banks of synthesizers that didn’t hearken back to disco so much as to bloated mid-’80s new wave of the Simple Minds variety. But over time, Hyde and partner Rick Smith have gravitated toward more obvious vocal hooks, as well as a sprightlier musical style, although the results have been just as uneven. Despite its title, Barking is, in some ways, the most tuneful Underworld album yet, which isn’t saying a lot—Hyde isn’t much of a singer, and the repeated chants of “Heaven, heaven” that make up the chorus of “Always Loved A Film,” or his far-away moan through acres of smoggy keyboard riffs on “Between Stars” nag as much as the ’90s stuff but are far less arresting. And between the twinkling keyboard filigrees that announce “Scribble,” which hearkens back to misty-eyed early rave, and “Hamburg Hotel,” which sounds like a ’70s jazz-funk breakdown elongated to five minutes, the music on Barking also shows a lighter (and flatter) touch.

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