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Posted on July 16th, 2013 (8:37 am) by N. Neal Paradise

For ages, rock bands had been constructed of a rather narrow set of elements: the electric guitar, the drum kit, the bass, etc. Then came the synthesizer, and everything changed. Suddenly, there were such things as electronica, drum and bass, house, and EDM. Now, those things have been around so long that the difference between synthesized sounds and those made by actual instruments is just...not really important anymore.

One of the pioneers of the meshing of standard blues-based rock and roll with electronic and computerized music, though few people in America actually know them, is Australian band Underground Lovers. Their early albums established their sound, and in the mid-’90s they began adding high-tech elements, but it was completely natural and in keeping with their own sound. They toured with New Order (another important band for understanding this electronic rock idea) and The Cure, one band member wrote and directed a film (2001’s “Mallboy”), and they took an extended break after that.

It has now been twelve years since we last heard from Underground Lovers, and their skills have not atrophied at all. Weekend, their first album after their break and seventh overall, is a masterful blend of delicacy, intensity, and measured force. They don’t press too hard, as a younger band might, but their fervor hasn’t flagged, as is the problem for some older bands. And they’re still applying synth touches where appropriate, still making their electronic influence seem completely organic.

Opening track “Spaces” eases into the album as a gentle reintroduction to UL; after all, it’s been twelve years since their last album, so a small period of re-acquaintance might be a good idea. But after that, it’s directly into that steady and euphoric electric grind UL do so well. To an Underground Lovers fan from the old days, the memories just come flooding back with that glorious riff at the front of “Can For Now.” In a similar mode is “Au Pair,” though it’s more nervous and less breezy. “Haunted (Acedia)” sways hypnotically in a Stone Roses groove. The Stone Roses are a powerful touchstone for much of Weekend, and indeed for the bulk of Underground Lovers’ career.

The quieter numbers bear up almost as well. “Dream to Me” and the aforementioned “Spaces” are spacey yet still relatable. Female singer Phillippa Nihill wields the ability to draw you in with grace; before you know it, you’re in her sway. But what’s best about the vocal performances on Weekend is exemplified on the last two tracks. “In Silhouette” is a little jarring, being positioned right after the intense “Au Pair,” and it seems a little boring. But it’s just to lull the listener into a false sense of security. The safety in softness that “In Silhouette” delivers is disintegrated into danger and darkness with the closing track, “The Lie That Sets You Free,” sung by male singer and band co-founder Vincent Giarrusso. Like being stuck in a car with a madman at the wheel, “The Lie That Sets You Free” is unrelenting as it barrels on at 100 MPH.

What does this mean for the future of Underground Lovers? They’ve been gradually returning to music since 2010, but Weekend is the first new record from them in a long time. And since Weekend is rigidly consistent with the rest of their career – great though it may be – it doesn’t contain any surprises. So does Weekend bring no promise of forward motion? Or is it merely something meant to reacquaint us with Underground Lovers, a jumpstart after a decade of collecting dust? Only their next album will tell, but hope remains.

Track List:
1. Spaces
2. Can For Now
3. Haunted (Acedia)
4. Dream to Me
5. Signs of Weakness
6. Riding
7. St Germain
8. Au Pair
9. In Silhouette
10. The Lie That Sets You Free

Underground Lovers - Weekend
Purchase at: Amazon | eMusic

Our Rating

73 / 100
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