Darryl Way - Underworld album review

Former Curved Air man Darryl Way’s Orpheus myth opera. Contains sex drugs and rock’n’roll

Darryl Way - Underworld album artwork

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If a recasting of the tragic tale of Orpheus and Eurydice in the 70s music business seems a tad preposterous on paper, Underworld wears its pretensions lightly.

Although played straight by a cast of actors and singers, and a band led by Way, it’s clear that the composer revels in the eccentricity of his creation. The main characters are the rather naïve and gullible rock star Orfeo, his girlfriend Eurydice, or ’Dice, as he calls her – a recovering junkie who initially reminds of Janine in Spinal Tap – and their dodgy friend, the snake-like music biz svengali Vincent. The songs and dialogue come over like a sort of radio play version of David Essex’s 70s film vehicle Stardust cut with Nic Roeg’s Performance, a pinch of Goethe’s Faust and a touch of Bowie as Ziggy. Musically there are some seriously big, memorable West End-style show tunes like The Language Of Love and Wanna Be Alive Again. But although its concept out-progs most prog albums, the songs are tightly written rock songs and ballads, and there is little of the instrumental flamboyance that might have been expected. It’s an engaging couple of hours but it’s difficult to see who is the target audience.

Mike Barnes

Mike Barnes is the author of Captain Beefheart - The Biography (Omnibus Press, 2011) and A New Day Yesterday: UK Progressive Rock & the 1970s (2020). He was a regular contributor to Select magazine and his work regularly appears in Prog, Mojo and Wire. He also plays the drums.