Album Also Out Today
posted by October 16 at 12:22 PMon
In addition to Maritime and Jimmy Eat World, today sees the release of Underworld’s Oblivion With Bells.
Oblivion With Bells
Listening to Underworld is like getting drunk with the HAL 9000. If you read Karl Hyde’s angular, processed poetry word for word, it stops just short of total gibberish—like the precision-detailed mess of the band’s cover art, or the words-are-instruments vibe of Ken Nordine’s 1950’s “word jazz.” But if you sit back, unfocus your ears, and soak it in as a whole, it tiptoes over into brilliance. Just as good techno plays subtle headgames with sound and dares you to dance smart, Hyde’s lyrics twist and weave around the noise, adding just enough make the songs mean something, but leaving it up to you to figure out what that is. This either makes people life-long fans, or it drives them batshit.
In the five years since the sadly under-rated A Hundred Days Off, Underworld has been under the radar, and busy as hell. They scored Anthony Minghella’s Breaking and Entering and Danny Boyle’s Sunshine. They left the major labels behind and released the pioneering Riverrun series of multimedia downloads on their own. They kept up their touring schedule and released a live album and career-spanning anthology. All this work has nudged them away from producing dancefloor bangers—the high-energy tracks on Oblivion sound more like rock than anything else, the techno is subtle and nuanced, and the rest is all expansive piano and strings—but it has refined the sound they nailed more than a decade ago: dramatic electronic music, surrounded by cryptic, vulnerable lyrics full of fleeting thoughts, first impressions, and missing pieces. If you’ve never liked them before, Oblivion With Bells might turn you around. And if you already do, this is their best work yet. MATT CORWINE