Picks and Pans Review: Underneath the Radar

updated 04/25/1988 at 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 04/25/1988 01:00AM

Underworld

The three musicians who are the core of this group—lead singer-guitarist Karl Hyde, keyboardist Rick Smith, guitarist Alfie Thomas—have worked together for eight years. They previously led a band known, though to not too many people, as Freur. They have, in a couple of words, been around, and they haven't been wasting their time. In this new incarnation, joined by bassist Baz Allen and socko drummer Bryn B. Burrows, they coalesce into a rock band that deftly blends a little synthpop, a little funk, a little social conscience and a lot of surging rhythms that usually lead to something—dare it be said?—almost melodious. Hyde possesses one too many names and not quite enough drama or finesse to belong yet in the Bono school of pop singing, but he's on the right block. True, he could use an articulation lesson or two; it is often hard to make sense of the lyrics. The dance-oriented fan will not be too troubled, of course, and at times the murky diction is no loss: "Your love is terminal/ And I let you give it to me/ Your love's a juggernaut/ And you tried to drive it through me." The lyrics of the title song, though, pull off some nice turns as they voice the ever popular rock fear of nuclear war, and Bright White Flame suggests an impressionistic sense of enduring passion. It might stretch the point to suggest that a little Dylan Thomas rubbed off the group's Welsh background—Smith and Thomas are Welsh, while Hyde is English, and the band's formative years were spent in Cardiff. (The three co-write all the songs.) This is grownup stuff, though, with a sound that's a real attempt at originality. Welcome to the surface, gentlemen. (Sire)

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