Barbara Barbara, We Face a Shining Future Underworld (Universal) Three stars
To many listeners – and probably much to their own chagrin – Underworld will forever be known for Born Slippy, their Trainspotting-soundtrack dance-floor epic of hedonistic proportions.
The British duo, Karl Hyde and Rick Smith, have evolved a great deal since those heady mid-1990s days, however. Now 35 years into their career, Underworld's first studio album for six years is more of a subtle comedown than an in-your-face party. Indeed, there are moments, such as on Low Burn, when it's almost synth-pop.
One existing aspect of their work that remains is their propensity for lengthy productions.
The opening track, I Exhale, tops eight minutes, and the majority of what follows does so in six-minute-plus packages. Full of Hyde’s spoken-word monologues, the record takes on a darker turn when you learn that its title is one of the last things Smith’s father said before dying.
Barbara Barbara, We Face a Shining Future won't be turning club dance floors into sweaty scrums of revellers, for the most part, then, but it is a mildly diverting reminder of Underworld's singular vision – all grown up and without any chants about drinking.