Underworld is struggling a bit now to decide who they are outside of the club/trance setting where that freewheeling Dadaist ping-pong poetry matches the most acutely.
Timothy Gabriele: It was fitting that Karl Hyde’s last album was with Brian Eno because I always thought Underworld’s lyrics had an Eno-esque quality. On classic Underworld tunes like “Born Slippy” or “King of Snakes”, the words were more timbric and tonal than relatable, something Eno definitely strived for on his first three solo records. This is still the case with Underworld, but I think the band is struggling a bit now to decide who they are outside of the club/trance setting where that freewheeling Dadaist ping-pong poetry matches the most acutely. This new one”I Exhale” is slightly pub-ish, which would be an unusual landing point on the trajectory of a band that started as a new wave group (Freuer) who renamed themselves after a horror film they scored and eventually became one of the most recognizable names in '90s rave culture who then circled back into some “serious” soundtrack work for Danny Boyle films. And now onto electro-charged pub rock? Even for a band that doesn’t sit still much, it’s an awkward look for them. [4/10]
Paul Duffus: It’s a little reminiscent of the Fall this, not just because of the familiar speaky-rappy vocals, but the bounce and squeak of the thing. In the video Karl Hyde breaks out some of that fab door-dancing that’s so huge in the UK at the moment. Altogether quite agreeable. [8/10]
John Garratt: When spoken in an English accent, gibberish can sound profound. When performed by a greying, debonair chap, flailing about can look like performance art. When it comes to strobe lights, even the best of us are reduced to something that sits below embarrassment. Even Mark E. Smith understands that. [5/10]
Dustin Ragucos: Maybe the fuming rage building up is because of such an annoying video, the kind that would put a Six Flags ad to shame. Maybe it's because I woke up to too much Frankie Cosmos, making me intensely bitter and sad. This paraded near-stream of consciousness way of lyricism posited by Underworld deserves the benefit of the doubt, despite its bothersome and unenthused quality. Whether it's the rhythm behind the words or the words themselves, there's the idea of influence that overtakes each beat. Such influence becomes the track within dreamspace that you want to clarify its familiarity, but you can't. And with this, Underworld gets the cursed benefit of the doubt. [5/10]
Steve Horowitz: There are people who dig this who possess with ponderous senses of style. Life is oppressive enough. Stop beating yourself up. Sure there’s rhythm here and blah blah blah blah blah, that’s not enough. The video offers the same headache. [3/10]
Jedd Beaudoin: Proof that everything sounds better with a British accent. My elderly cousins will probably dance to this the next time the grandkids are over. [5/10]