Get this, the famous EDM artist of two main collaborators Karl Hyde and Rick Smith (along with, through most of the period until 2000, DJ Darren Emerson) were actually a fairly ordinary rock group to begin with. This album not only is seen as a classic to many in the world of electronic music, but was a huge success to the duo who beforehand lacked good tunes and confidence in their own future. This is a great listen from start to finish, so strap on your 3D glasses and let’s go.
Dark and Long begins with some notably dark atmospheric sounds, before some rather typical Techno like beats kick in. It has some interesting lyrics here as well. It gradually builds up collective textures, and supports the lyrics perfectly here. It is an inspired and amazing listen that sounds original, highly psychedelic and hypnotic even. The layering of various sounds is well done here. It’s not Joy Division dark, but quite like dark Techno. Yet, even that is a label. Underworld are an original group adhering to no specific genre here. There are some ghostly sounds and vocals throughout as well, to surprise you. Minimal, dark and catchy, this is a winner. The whole thing is almost like EDM to trip to. The melancholy within the lyrics may be very Blade Runner inspired. Imaginative and surreal, these guys had built a better future for themselves by starting here. A great piece of unique and wonderful music.
Mmm…Skyscraper I Love You is even more surreal, with rushing wind sounds at the beginning, and backwards looped guitars. Some interesting lyrics abound, before going into a simple rhythmic and textural piece. The lyrical sound effects make dramatic use of sweep delay, and we kick in with main percussion here. With a psychedelic drum roll, we enter the main section of this track. “30,000 feet above the earth, it’s a beautiful thing, a beautiful thing…” sings Karl Hyde. Other random lyrics about Elvis (Presley, not Costello), God talking on the phone and a dog sniffing the wind here are monumental to this track. This is an amazing piece, and sounds so inspired and lively that it has aged superbly well to this day. If you like a well structure EDM track, this should be one of your go-to avenues. It is a great piece of energetic, intelligent and imaginative energy to hear. The sound effects are amazing. If you have the patience for a 13 minute plus long track, this should be a great starting point for you. A classic by all means. Some strings emerge towards the end of the main section of this track, making the sound even more dramatic. Once the main section of the track winds down, we hear another ethereal sound patch which lifts us into section two of the track. This is just as exciting, with some brilliant Fender Stratocaster like guitar parts being played by the group. Some brilliant use of cut up sound effects and delay are here. Unforgettably good, this part of the track is subtle and gentle. A great track to hear, and a timeless classic for sure.
Next is the superb Surfboy which is another excellent tune, although somewhat shorter in length. This is not surf rock music, instead it is EDM for the mind, heart and soul. Some great sound affected drum parts are here, along with various melodies that reoccur and lift you up into the music. For those of you who dislike the Grunge movement which was hugely prevalent of the time, this could be an answer for you. The music evolves gradually into a frenzy of catchy melody. There are a lot of Acid House style sounds here as well, amongst what sounds like an American Indian electronic cry. Seriously cool. It sounds like The Prodigy and many others making electronic music at the time had major competition. An excellent, blood pumping and great tune to hear no matter dancing away or at home with headphones, this is super good. The buildup of sound here is amazing. Towards the end, it goes into a gnarly groove for the most part. This music is futuristic and well ahead of its time. Some drum and percussion sounds finish off this piece, brilliant.
After that is Spoonman which begins with an electronically treated vocal merely saying Tuesday. Some simple beats and textures then enter the track, and we go into a minimalist but decent. There is an air of excitement here on this track, and Underworld made a brilliant and exciting track here. Repeating textures reminiscent of Donna Summer’s much loved I Feel Love disco hit are here. Some strange lyrics are here, and this track all in all is a solid listen, although it is not the best track here. It is a trip through a musical environment that is amazing. In the middle of it, some various filters and effects are placed onto the main melody here. More lyrics of random goodness emerge from vocalist and music maker Karl Hyde. A great piece of nicely minimal and expanded EDM style music, it is a fun and interesting listen. Some repeated lyrics of randomness continue throughout this track towards the end of the listen. It gradually segues into the next track.
Tongue begins with some repeated backwards eerie sound effects, leading into a strange and unusual listen. Some swamp like noises arise, along with some jangly delayed electric guitar that, quite frankly, sounds awesome. Some vocoder style singing emerges, which sounds really odd. There is the sound of footsteps and movement in such an environment, along with birds chirping and water rushing. This is such wonderful and gentle listening, with the awesome guitar parts continuing throughout the track. It’s a relaxing sort of piece, but although not specifically meditation music, it is very close to it. Some muted beats eventually are thrown into the mix, this is no doubt a great and inspired listen. Although definitely a lesser track, it is emotional and good quality. It slowly fades out before the next track kicks in.
Dirty Epic comes next, a piece that begins with a clarinet sounding patch and sound effects to match it. Before long, some beats and other textures emerge to sound dirty throughout, with an array of lyrics to match. It is one of the standout tracks here, with everything well thought out here in a musical sense. It sounds awesome, catchy and inspired, being more of a song like piece to listen to. Some unusual lyrics enter the midsection breaks, such as, “Here comes Christ on crutches!” which is really superb. The piece evolves wonderfully, and is subtly humourous as the lyrics come. The midsection goes into a pounding 4/4 beat piece, before the second half of the track with some great electric guitar loops and a peak of emotional energy emerges. A piano motif then enters, adding to the power and energy of this track. Every single detail of this track is done perfectly, and a twist to the lyrics comes out towards the end. More random dirty minded lyrics enter, a solidly good tune to hear. Towards the end, it goes into a chopped up frenzy of melody and sounds that are entirely original. A great piece that deserves listening for adults. It segues gradually into the next track.
Up next is Cowgirl which kicks off with some interesting sound pastiches, before going into a very North American sounding sound loop. Looped vocals then come along, which are really odd to hear. It gradually builds up with percussion based sounds, and the piece becomes danceable with a 4/4 beat. Some extra percussion comes pounding along, with the whole piece coming alive with some electronic processed melodies for people to dance and go nuts to. This is a killer track, and sounds really vibey and energetic. It may be that Underworld’s music is just as good as dancing to as listening at home by yourself, and this track certainly indicates that. This is a great piece that deserves recognition in the history of electronic music, and music in general. Some extra melodies enter the track in the second half, which sound liquified. Original, amazing and electronic, this is a great listen for sure. The ending is highly memorable, and sounds fresh and top notch. Great tune.
After that is River Of Bass which is a very underrated Underworld track, with some heavy, low frequency sounds that do justice. It has some lyrics and gentle singing nicely attached to this track. Very minimal and lovely sounding. This track proves that, once again, you need not crank everything beyond 10 to achieve results in music. Very Dub music inspired, it sounds very quiet and groovy. Some odd sound effects are attached to the low key basslines and melodies here. This is an excellent listen, and very catchy. This should be in someone’s top ten of EDM tracks, if not yours. A great and inspired piece of gentle relaxation of bass heavy music, it is a top listen. Some thunderous bass drum sounds enter towards the end, and this is a shorter, but very enjoyable piece of music. Nice effort lads.
M.E. aka Mother Earth is the last track on this album, with some cyber vocals and some samples of Japanese spoken at the beginning of the track. There is a more digital feel to this one than previous tracks. Indeed, it sounds appropriate for those in outer space to listen to when looking at Planet Earth itself. Some real bass guitar and beats then enter, giving a unique feel to this piece. It is not the best track on this album, but nonetheless, is an inspired and fresh listen. Karl Hyde sings wonderfully here, sounding reassuring. It’s a good science fiction sort of piece, without being entirely like Techno music. Some lovely piano is in here, too. A refreshing and strong listen, the piano dominates the second half of this piece of music. “A beautiful destination, for what it’s worth…” is a positive and enlightened lyric from Karl Hyde. It fades out gently, ending the album.
This album is a genuine classic in the history of music, and is very strong from start to finish. Any bad points? Perhaps the length, it is well over an hour long. Still, this can be easily overlooked. Underworld made some great music here, and it is reflected on this album. Underworld fans should check out some of the re-releases with some extra awesome tracks on them. Overall, a very good effort.