Barking (UWR00032-2) インポート
クラブシーンの最先端を突き進むUNDERWORLDが放つ6thアルバム「Barking(バーキング)」、リード・シングル『Always Loved A Film』など、キラーアンセム満載で遂に完成!!
Underworld(アンダーワールド)にとって3年ぶり6作目となる待望の新作「Barking」が遂に完成! 本作は、High ContrastやMark Knight & D.Ramirezなどの豪華コラボレーターとの共同作業をもとに制作された。これはUnderworldの二人にとって初めての試みである。すべての楽曲はUnderworldによって作曲され、ダンスミュージック界から厳選されたクリエイター達に手渡され、彼らのスタイルやクリエイティヴィティがバンドの生の素材に加えられたのだ。その結果として、最上級の楽曲が出揃い、この10年間で最高のアルバムが仕上がったのである!!
・High Contrast(Lincoln Barrett)
・Mark Knight & D.Ramirez
・Appleblim and Al Tourettes
・Paul Van Dyk
More good news: Karl Hyde is trying to write songs again! The worst thing about Oblivion With Bells was that, even as the vocals were more up-front in the mix than ever before, the content of what Hyde was saying was at an all-time low, literally just nonsensical phrases strung together. That shows up on Barking, too. But somehow, "Bird 1" nails exactly the evocative quality that Hyde's stream-of-consciousness style had at its best (that is, on Dubnobasswithmyheadman and a couple of later songs), with lovely, captivating imagery like, "he saw a white church with a blue-domed roof, a crucifix on the top" and the cryptic chorus, "there is one bird in my house."
Unfortunately, that's the absolute peak of the album, with more than a few examples of poor writing in other songs. The ghost of Dubnobasswithmyheadman hovers over Barking. "Grace" is basically a rewrite of "Dirty Epic." The lines, "light up the darkness, I'm violently in love / the waitress smiles / the music's too loud, my body hurts" are basically a brief summary of the emotions explored on the 1993 classic. Hyde even recycles the "waitress" image, which already got recycled on Second Toughest In The Infants in 1996. "Recycling" is the right word -- in all respects, this is a much simpler and less nuanced version of the same emotions, a clear case of diminishing returns.
This is an interesting illustration of how subjectively we perceive song lyrics. Hyde always wrote in a stream-of-consciousness free-verse style. It's really hard to explain why some lyrics in this style are effective while others aren't. Yet, I firmly believe that "Bird 1" is brilliantly written, whereas "Grace" is not. Maybe it's because Hyde just isn't as angry these days as he was in 1993. We know that he quit binge-drinking and is basically happy with his life. Perhaps that's why "Grace," which tries to return to the nocturnal urban desperation of "Dirty Epic," feels flat and by-the-numbers, whereas the more oblique "Bird 1" fascinates.
The bad news: Barking has the most simplistic music of any Underworld album, even compared to Beaucoup Fish. Apparently admitting that they're out of new ideas, Hyde and Smith recruited a different producer for each track. This does spruce up the sound a bit, making it sound like a modern club album. But the best thing about Underworld was that they had the most sophisticated, detailed rhythms in all of techno. "Dark And Long" consisted almost entirely of percussion, but it was densely layered, with many different rhythmic hooks interacting with each other and slowly building up to a mighty crescendo. The songs on Barking are upbeat, but one-dimensional, without this kind of forward movement. The beat in "Scribble" isn't bad, but it's overbearingly simple, and it's also really loud. Maybe that's fine for the club, but why can't we have songs that are original and memorable in addition to being good club material?
Sure, Underworld's music has been moving in this direction ever since Beaucoup Fish. But even the 1999 album had the gorgeous, chilled epic "Cups," which compensated for its simple beat with an unusual vocal sound and transition to a loud peak at the end. Why, even Oblivion With Bells had two songs -- "Crocodile" and "Best Mamgu Ever" -- which tried to do something creative with Hyde's distorted vocals. Barking, on the other hand, tries to go for pop appeal, with three happy, celebratory songs along the lines of 2002's "Two Months Off." These are bouncy and fun (especially "Always Loved A Film," which also has nice summery lyrics), and probably better than the 2002 song, but still lack any kind of original twist. Actually, they sound a lot like New Order. "Diamond Jigsaw" uses a guitar sound that perfectly emulates Bernard Sumner when he's a garage mood, like on Get Ready or Waiting For The Sirens' Call. I'm a huge New Order fan, but again, Underworld made a name for themselves by incorporating fractured electric guitars into pure techno in extremely unconventional ways (again, cf. "Dirty Epic").
When Barking overcomes one weakness, it runs into another. "Between Stars" is the one track that has a crescendo of sorts (a simple one based mostly on volume, but let's take what we can get), but Hyde decides to goth it up by dramatically repeating "under a full moon" at the end of most lines. This is a bit silly -- it's such a blatant way to try for a dark tone. There's also some outright filler -- unfortunately, we do get one pointless spoken-word track in "Moon Over Water." The instrumental "Hamburg Hotel" at first recalls bad memories of "Little Speaker" from A Hundred Days Off, but eventually I ended up digging the rubbery bass that comes in at some point. Also, I actually like "Louisiana," unlike many critics...but even so, I can't deny that the music is extremely rudimentary. Every band has done a sensitive piano ballad at one point, and Hyde's take on it doesn't bring anything new to the table -- especially if you compare it to classic Underworld ballads like "Tongue," which had very memorable guitar and synth sounds, or "Blueski," where the fuzzy guitar had a more subtle production, or even "Ballet Lane," with much more complex keyboard lines.
I don't dislike Barking. As far as listenability goes, it might be their best album since Beaucoup Fish...but I also remember saying that about A Hundred Days Off and Oblivion With Bells when they came out, and I hardly ever listen to them anymore. If this album wasn't by Underworld, I'm not sure I'd have paid any attention to it. It has no coherent theme -- the album cover seems like a happy version of their classic collage style, but there are only three happy songs on the album, not enough to form an overarching idea. And yet...I've had "Bird 1" on repeat since the album came out. The beautiful, strange, uneasy atmosphere of classic Underworld is still in there somewhere; I just don't know if it'll ever fully show itself again.
I have to say that I am pleasantly surprised by this album. In a lot of ways it's very un-Underworld. It's definitely more accessible than their previous albums. I get the very distinct impression that they simply wanted to have a laugh and have fun recording an album.
Barking is a very fitting title to this album. There is much joy and love running through this album and it's sweetly honest which at first was a little jarring because it's, well, Underworld and I'm used to soundscapes containing jazz inflected lyrics that are both sensible yet mysterious at the same time. This album is very straighforward and honest and dare I say it? Uplifting.
Moon in Water and Diamond Jigsaw are worth the price of the album alone.
And lo and behold the lads write an actual ballad called Louisiana and it's right lovely.
Good stuff -- I'm always gonne love these guys.