What does it sound like?:
By no means a bad album – I doubt Underworld are capable of producing such a thing – this is still the sound of a band punching way below their weight. It has a curiously flat sound, devoid of their usual euphoric peaks and life-affirming melodies, while anybody looking for a repeat of the sparkle High Contrast brought to ‘Barking’ will be sorely disappointed. All concerned sound curiously distracted.
The opening couplet of ‘I Exhale’ and ‘If Rah’ is reminiscent of ‘Bruce Lee’ from Beaucoup Fish and ‘Ring Road’ from Oblivion With Bells, which isn’t a good sign: they’re hardly highlights of the canon. As well as sounding overly familiar, they both suffer from a certain sameyness, with a similar chugging rhythm and chanty vocals. They’re not bad, but we’re a long way from classic openers like ‘Juanita’, ‘Cups’ and ‘Crocodile’.
Things don’t really pick up from there. It’s only a seven-track album and the mid-section passes virtually unnoticed before a closing triptych of ‘Motorhome’, ‘Ova Nova’ and ‘Nylon Strung’ finds Underworld at its most thoughtful. Good though these songs are, I don’t think they’ll be muscling in on your Underworld Best Of’ compilation any time soon, and they’re not nearly as great as over-optimistic reviews elsewhere have suggested. They also suffer from a sense that the preceding album hasn’t done nearly enough to earn its right to what is basically an extended, ruminative outro.
In conclusion, then, a good album but not up there with the best.
What does it all *mean*?
The bar is very high.
Goes well with…
Might suit people who like…
A vague sense of disappointment.