From the first time I saw Trainspotting on a contraband VHS tape in my friends bedroom circa November 1997 – after school, in secret while his parents were still at work, to an ecstatic concert at the Bristol Academy during their 100 Days Off tour in 2002 aged 17, to a drunken 5am karaoke session at Monster Ronson’s in Berlin, slamming our hands on the ceiling shouting „Mega Mega White Thing“ earlier this year, Underworld have always been close to my heart.
Growing up in 90s Britain, TV and Radio was the Media. Of all the BBC niceties, the best thing available was „Top Of The Pops 2“ with re-runs of old music videos and live tracks from the long running Pop Parade. They favored UK acts, heavy on 80s reminiscence as it goes, which opened up my innocent ears to wonders like The Human League, Adamski, Yazoo and many more genuinely good things that I had missed before the age of 10. It was either that or going over to my schoolmate Alex’s house. They had MTV and we’d watch it for hours. Bizarre and untold treasures were to be found.
Around the launch of Trainspotting there was a video going around for „Born Slippy (NUXX)“ – MTV played it a lot and I was fascinated. I knew this was adult stuff – adult music and adult content, and of course that made it even more delicious. So from then on they were on my radar. The track was everywhere, it was an anthem. They played it on Radio 1 alongside Oasis and Blur – it launched them into Brit Pop stardom. That was the gateway to dig deeper. I picked up Dubnobasswithmyheadman on sale for a fiver, and I’ve been absorbing it and letting it imprint itself on my brain ever since.
In the early 90s, immersed in the full on mass hysteria of Acid House, former Cardiff synth-pop heads Karl Hyde and Rick Smith met DJ Darren Emerson and teamed up to produce what most consider to be the debut Underworld album (although there were two preceding it withouth Emerson) Dubnobasswithmyheadman (1993). The result is a pristine sounding, club-focused masterpiece, heavy on songwriting with lush, progressive arrangements, sparingly deployed guitar parts and Karl’s distinctive droning vocal stream. The sound quality is what stands out; there’s so much space, clarity and dynamism. It’s a really expertly produced and complex record – the tracks still top most new productions when I play them out today and induce magical reactions from dancers.