Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Pure aural delight

Pre-post: Most of you know that I have an affinity for electronic dance music. I try to avoid using the word techno, except that is a word people seem to know. But it is often misused. Electronica is a broad category of electronic dance music, that includes techno, house (which has many subgenres), trance, progressive, IDM, big beat, and many others. Techno is a very specific type of dance music, but it has become the catch-all phrase to encompass all electronic music. I am not going to get into a big discussion of the differences between these styles (Google it if you want) but it mostly has to do with beats-per-minute, beat style, and a few other things. Now many people who don't regularly listen to electronic music will say that it all sounds the same and there is no difference between groups, much less between genres. That would be like saying since Blink-182, Aerosmith, and Metallica are all rock bands, then they all sound the same. Anyway, my point is this: when you are calling something techno, you probably are not really talking about techno.

That said, on with the post . . .


Summary: Underworld is hands-down my favorite electronic group, and their music defies categorization. But their music is intelligent and melodic, with stream-of-consciousness lyrics, all with mad beats. Whenever I listen to them, I am awe-struck that such glorious, emotionally-charged music can come from computers and synthesizers. Underworld's music is what Picasso would create if he were making music today. And most importantly, the music makes me very happy.

A Brief Description of the Group (from Rolling Stone):
With a groundbreaking sound that obliterates the dividing lines between Techno, Trance and Breakbeat stylings, Underworld bury a subtle Indie Rock attitude slightly beneath the textural surface of their blissful synthetic insanity. With the drop of each new release, this U.K. sensation proves their worthiness as one of the most innovative and important dance fusion acts of the 1990s. Accredited as heavy hitters in the struggle to bring dance music to the attention of the mainstream, electronica darlings Underworld continue to draw an impressive fanbase on both the international club scene and the airwaves with their widely influential style that blends electronic intricacy with king-size, floor-friendly grooves.

My History with the Group: Throughout college, I started really liking techno (actual techno) music, especially when I would dj college parties. These were sort of the beginning years of techno, and it was all pretty soulless, but dancey. When I moved to Chicago, I listened to a lot of dance music, since that was what was being played at the dance clubs. Around 1996-97, we were supposedly going to have a dance music revolution in the United States, and it was going to take over the world. A few groups had some hits (Prodigy, especially) but the revolution never really happened. But one benefit of all the hype was the movie soundtracks started incorporating electronica. And 1996 was the year of the amazing movie Trainspotting. I'll talk more about this movie in a movie post someday, but the importance of the Trainspotting soundtrack was that it introduced me to Underworld, and in particular their classic song "Born Slippy."

"Born Slippy" is amazing. It starts out with Karl Hyde's stylized voice, with no beat, singing:

drive boy
dog boy
dirty numb angel boy
In the doorway boy
she was a lipstick boy
she was a beautiful boy
and tears boy
and all in your innerspace boy
you had chemicals boy
and steel boy
I've grown so close to you
boy and you just groan boy
she said comeover comeover
she smiled at you boy
And continues with him chanting:

I just come out of the ship
talking to the most blonde I ever met
lager lager lager lager
lager lager lager lager
lager lager lager lager
lager lager lager
mega mega white thing
mega mega white thing
mega mega white thing
mega mega
lager lager lager lager
mega mega white thing
mega mega white thing

Anyway, thus began my love of Underworld. They had two albums out at this point: Dubnobasswithmyheadman and Second Toughest in the Infants. I'll deal with these in order of release date.

Dubnobasswithmyheadman is considered Underworld's classic, and with good reason. Underworld has always been good at changing up the tempos on their albums, and it all started with this one. They mix hard-pumping beats ("Dark and Long") with slower grooves ("River of Bass"). But always present are the beautiful melodies and strange but grand lyrics. In my favorite song on the album, "Mmmm Sksyscraper I love You," Hyde sings:

and I see Elvis
and I hear god on the phone
mmm skyscraper I love you
I see porn dogs sniffing the wind
sniffing the wind for something new

Plus the album has a wonderful song all about sex called "Dirty Epic."

On Underworld's next album, Second Toughest in the Infants, they refine their sound a bit, and provide a bit more variety. This album always reminds me of my friend Jake because before I bought it, he recorded it for me on tape. However, due to technical difficulties, the tape ended up being blank, and he was very embarrassed. I bring this up not to embarrass Jake but to mention that he is the only other person I know who truly understands the all-pervasive joy that is Underworld. Once when Jake visited me in Chicago, we went dancing at Berlin, and the dj played "Rowla," which is a majestic masterpiece, and Jake and I more or less went crazy on the dancefloor.

Their next album, Beaucoup Fish, is highly underrated. For some reason, some critics did not like it, but I thinik it is brilliant. The first four songs combine to make Underworld's best uninterrupted set of masterpieces, and the album closes with their most hardcore techno song, "Moaner."

Their most recent studio album (they released a live album as well) is Hundred Days Off, and continues their journey. It is a very emotional album, and contains some fine examples of electronic love songs, which sounds like a oxymoron a bit, but once you've heard "Two Months Off," you'll know what I mean:
you bring light in...

to a dark place
walking in light
glowing walking in light
gold ring around you
the hues of you
the golden sunlight of you

you bring light in...

Underworld has a greatest hits album called Underworld: 1992-2002 that I would recommend for the beginner. And I am very much looking forward to what happens with their next project, which is the score for Anthony Minghella's next movie.

Favorite Underworld Album:
This is a very tough choice, but I am going with Second Toughest in the Infants.

Favorite Underworld Song: "Born Slippy"; "Rowla"; "Jumbo" -- tie

Other Seminal Underworld Songs: "Mmm Skyscraper I Love You"; "Spoonman"; "Dirty Epic"; "Cowgirl"; "Juanita/Kiteless"; "Confusion the Waitress"; "Pearl's Girl"; "Stagger"; "Push Upstairs"; "King of Snake"; "Bruce Lee"; "Two Months Off"; "Dinosaur Adventure 3D"

with its glass eyes a blue formica halo
stainless steel between the fingers
pissed and leaning
colonel sanders fingers
the naming of killer boy
everything's going west nothing's going east
theres no need to be so uptight
make up for all their messes
I could listen to you all day
what a laugh
cut me I bleed like you
ha ha

Past Band Posts: New Order / The Smiths / Belle and Sebastian /


At 12:22 PM, Anonymous Kath posited...

I just heard "Born Slippy" somewhere last week and had major flashbacks to hanging out in Chicago...it just happened again reading your post :)

At 3:51 PM, Blogger Tom posited...

im glad you posted this. i am going to check these guys out. it's hard to find different good electronica with nothing to go on...

At 3:51 PM, Blogger CoachDub posited...

Yep, Kath, it is a very Chicago song. Everytime I think of Trainspotting, I think of going to the Brew 'n' View that one time.

At 3:53 PM, Blogger CoachDub posited...

Tom, they are definitely my favorites, but I'll be posting some other electronic groups along the way, too.

At 4:19 PM, Anonymous katja posited...

I love electronica. Per chance do you know anything about german groups? or european groups in general? ( it´s cheaper for me to order music from europe)

Thanks for the post.

At 5:15 PM, Blogger P "N" K posited...

To defend my use of "stalion..."

15 characters (including spaces) are all that can fit on the back on an intermural shirt. So that means

Italian Stalion

fits on the shirt. That's all.

At 5:42 PM, Blogger CoachDub posited...

That's fine. Good work.
But how about posting responses to my comments ON THE BLOG WHERE I LEFT THE COMEMENT, like for instance, right after my comment?
That's what a comment thread is all about, after all.
That way, the readers of this post are not lost.

At 11:30 PM, Blogger P "N" K posited...

eh, i figured that here it was bound to get a quicker response time.

At 12:33 AM, Blogger Tom posited...

hey katja, im not sure if the electronica community agrees, but i think that "Lissat & Düse" are pretty good... perhaps youve heard of them, im merely a novice electronica enthusiast still...

At 1:22 AM, Blogger Josh posited...

Out Hud

At 9:11 AM, Anonymous katja posited...

sahib, thanks i´ll check them out! And trust me, you know far more than I do about this subject.


At 10:38 AM, Blogger Jake posited...

A few things:

1. That blank copy of STitI was, like, a postmodern thing.

2. A couple years ago I wrote an effusive post about my love for Beaucoup Fish.

3. "call me wet trampoline she said today / well I was too busy with my hand / shake well before use she said / but you never touch me anymore / I was busy listening for phone sex / coming through the back door / in skin-tight trunks / and we all went mental and danced"

At 12:41 PM, Blogger Tom posited...

i could probably word this better, but, since i take the chance to use the funniest word in the english language whenever i can, are those lyrics masturbatory, or am i just childish?

At 1:00 PM, Blogger CoachDub posited...

Oh no, you're right -- it's masturbatory all the way. It is from their song "Dirty Epic," which is fantastic. Here are some more lyrics from the song:
with a smell of sugar / and a velvet tongue / and designer voodoo / but i got phonesex to see me through the emptiness in my 501s

You've got to love it.

At 2:28 PM, Blogger Tom posited...

and i do.

At 7:41 PM, Blogger Josh posited...

Out Hud guys

At 10:00 PM, Blogger jobble posited...

wait.. aerosmith is rock? I thought he was pop... anyway lindsay lohan just came out with a new CD!

At 10:18 PM, Blogger CoachDub posited...

He? Oh, you mean Bob Aerosmith?

At 10:22 PM, Blogger Tom posited...

you think thats bad? the other day i was discussing Led Zeppelin with a friend and another friend says, "oh! Led Zeppelin! he is SO good at guitar!"

At 11:39 PM, Blogger CoachDub posited...

That is pure hilarity. I hope you kicked that person in the knee.


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