Album Review: Underworld - Barking

Electronic music duo Underworld released an uplifting new album, Barking, on 9/13/10. I have been a fan of Underworld for many years, and particularly like their unique way of keeping their music rather muted and chill, but with an underlying I-can't-quite-put-my-finger-on-it energy.

Underworld's most recent album, 2007's Oblivion With Bells was a serious disappointment, so I was nervous that Barking would follow suit. To my delight, when I heard the first single from the new album, "Scribble," I couldn't help but smile and dance. What a specatular energy Underworld was able to capture with this song! I was still slightly concerned that the rest of the album would be a bust since there were also one or two great songs on Oblivion, but I'm absolutely in love with this album. For some fans, though, this new direction might be a let down. Barking is more oriented toward the dance music side of electronic music than the simplistic but beautiful form their previous albums have taken. The music feels more open and free than their past work. Not in a good or bad way, but in a different way.

The album opens with "Bird 1," which is a beautiful song that adds to itself as it goes along. It is a perfect blend of the traditional Underworld sound with a clear move in a new, futuristic direction. The next two tracks, "Always Loved a Film," and, "Scribble," continue the direction of progress to a new sound for the group and would be amazing to see performed live. Incidentally, when I saw Underworld perform in Toronto many years ago, it was one of the best electronic shows I had ever seen. Somehow, they harnessed an invisible energy from very subdude songs (their older work), and transformed it into an amazing lifeforce which transversed the audience. On Barking, old school Underworld shows up especially strongly in "Hamburg Hotel," and "Moon In Water." The latter is a poignant song which resonated with me due to my curiosity about the nature of reality. I have included the lyrics at the end of this review for you to ponder as well.

Barking is a delicious blend of old and new Underworld and there isn't a single song on this album I dislike. I just wish it was a bit longer! :) It's amazing to me that Karl Hyde and Rick Smith (who are Underworld) are the same age as my parents and are able to stay ahead of the curve and have continued to make unique music since 1986.

"Moon In Water" lyrics:

The phenomenon of moon-in-the-water is likened to human experience / The water is the subject, and the moon, the object / When there is no water, there is no moon-in-the-water / And likewise there is no moon / When the moon rises, the water does not wait to receive its image / And when even the tiniest drop of water is poured out, the moon does not wait to cast its reflection / Does not wait to cast its reflection… / Manifest… / Doesn’t not wait to cast its reflection... / Past is already past / The future's not yet here / Things are constantly changing… / The event is caused as much by the water as by the moon / And as the water manifests the brightness of the moon, the moon manifests the clarity of the water

"Scribble" video

Underworld Official Website

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