Together since 1986, Underworld are something of legends in the electronica genre. The band is perhaps best known for “Born Slippy .NUXX” which was prominently featured in Trainspotting, but the band has scored top 20 singles in the UK with tracks like “Push Upstairs”, “King of Snake”, and “Two Months Off”. Their latest album, Barking is their first album in three years. It is also their first album to feature a diverse pool of co-producers.
The album’s first single “Scribble” is co-produced by High Contrast. High Contrast is perhaps best known for his remixes of such songs as Tiesto‘s “Kaleidoscope”, Kanye West‘ “Gold Digger” and “Flashing Lights”, and The White Stripes‘ “My Doorbell” and “Blue Orchid”. He is known for his liquid funk sound but that does not come out too much in “Scribble”. The track features a spastic drum line but has the layering one might expect in liquid funk. The layering gives the track almost a trance like feel.
The album’s second single “Always Loved a Film” is co-produced by D. Ramirez. Ramirez is a British house producer that was nominated for Ivor Novello Award for his remix of Bodyrox‘ “Yeah Yeah”. Ramirez’ house influences is immediately felt in “Always Loved a Film”. The track features a bass-heavy four-on-the-floor beat that is begging to be spun in Europe’s club scene. The track’s ridiculously poppy chorus makes it an obvious choice for a single, even more so than the album’s lead single.
The album’s most high profile collaboration is with Paul Van Dyk. The German Grammy Award–nominated producer works on “Diamond Jigsaw”, one of the best songs on the album. The track’s busy synth arrangement and use of electric guitar make it unique on the album, but its standard house beat keeps it cohesive with the rest of the album.
But despite all that is positive with the album, Barking suffers from a mid-album lull. “Hamburg Hotel” and “Grace” feel like they are phoned-in. The album’s closer “Louisiana” is supposed to be a break in form. It is a more “traditional” rock ballad, but it feels like an afterthought that was stuck on the end of the album.
In the end, the good songs are very good but the few bad songs are what really drag Barking down from legendary status. The album has the potential to be one of Underworld’s best ever but falls just short.
MP3: Underworld featuring Paul Van Dyk “Diamond Jigsaw”
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