Underworld is a hard band to pin down. They’ve worked with so many people under so many names, I couldn’t even tell you how many albums they’ve made. From Fruer to Lemon Interrupt to every installment of Underworld (MK1, 2, and 3) they’ve remained a revolutionary driving force for that teeny-tiny space between rock and electronica. In the early years, it was mostly rock for the English duo of Karl Hyde and Rick Smith, at least until the addition of DJ Darren Emerson in 1991.
Underworld is such a collected effort. They’re not so much of a band as an entity. True, they make albums and do tours, but they’ve done soundtracks, movies, radio stations, and are planning on venturing into television programs and books. They’ve got a hand in everything.
Their most recent album, Oblivion With Bells, was released in 2007 with a remix album, The Bells, The Bells, shortly to follow. Being their first album of their own works in five years, no one really knew what to expect. It could have been fantastic, it could have been a bomb, but it turned out somewhere in between.
Oblivion With Bells starts out well enough…ambient noise with light piano and a steady beat. The first single of the album, “Crocodile” starts off with a toe-tapping beat and evolves into a trance hit. The ambient waves and smooth, sultry lyrics kind of have an early Depeche Mode vibe. You can almost see that mid 80’s goth kid in the corner with the smeared lipstick gently bobbing his head.
“Beautiful Burnout” continues with a bubbling, happy beat while “To Heal” is pure trance with a slowly developing epic aspect to it. Where they were going with “Ring Road” and “Holding the Moth” is completely past my realm of knowledge. Dear Underworld, please no more free-style rapping. Please. It’s just not right.
The last half of this album devolves into a mess of electronic monster noise and jumbled, mumbling vocals, lacking even a cohesive beat, save for “Best Mamgu Ever”. It’s simply terrible, and I hate to say that about such a great band.
It’s not like losing Emerson in 2002 is the sole, issue here either. I loved 100 Days Off, even though it wasn’t all that warmly received by the masses. It’s no Dubnobasswithmyheadman, but still a good, solid album.
This song has four great tracks out of 12, not a good ratio. C