Release Date: 09.24.02
Record label: JBO / V2 / BMG
by: bill aicher
Back in 1993 when Underworld released their first album as a trio, Dubnobasswithmyheadman was heralded by critics as the pinnacle of what electronic dance music (techno) could, and would, be. And, while Dubnobasswithmyheadman has remained a shining pillar in the genesis of modern dance music, Underworld too has continued to churn out respectable album after respectable album. The most notable of these is 1996's Second Toughest of the Infants, the album by which Underworld really moved into the limelight of the growing embracement of techno by popular music culture. (An embracement which was undoubtedly catalyzed by the immense popularity of their track "Born Slippy" that was so prominently featured in the Scottish film, Trainspotting).
1999 brought about Beaucoup Fish, a relatively solid dance album, albeit with a few spotty glitches and missteps. Beacoup Fish also brought about the end of Underworld's days as a trio, as Darren Emerson later left the group to once again pursue his solo DJ career. Which brings us to A Hundred Days Off...
With the release of A Hundred Days Off, speculation abounded as to whether or not the group would be able to continue the quality of music they had become so famous for. Many argued that it was Emerson who had helped keep the group from going out of their head experimental, and that the new work would mark the end of days for Underworld. They hadn't, after all, released an album as a duo since 1989.
Obviously Karl Hyde and Rick Smith learned a few things along the ride with Emerson, as A Hundred Days Off not only fills the rather large shoes Underworld has grown into over these years, but stands out as some of the duo's best work since Dubnobasswithmyheadman. While Beacoup Fish had it's moments of brilliance ("Jumbo," "Push Upstairs") there was an overwhelming feeling of missed opportunity spattered throughout the album.
The new album starts things off in splendid Underworld form with the straightforward techno dance of '"Mo Move." But it's in the album's second track (and first single), "Two Months Off," that Underworld's continued excellence truly shines. In classic Underworld fashion, "Two Months..." relies heavily on Hyde's vocals over a steadily building chord phrase. It's arguably their best track yet, and worth the price of the album in itself.
Then there are the occasional downbeat grungisms Underworld's always felt inclined to include, like the lackadaisical "Sola Sistim" and "Ess Gee," where the duo succeeds... but it's not quite sure what they succeeded at. Still, tracks like the upbeat house anthem of "Dinosaur Adventure 3d" more than compensate for these slight misgivings.
In a world where house music as we've grown up with is being handed down to the younger generations, it's reassuring to know that groups like Underworld are doing their part to keep the legacy alive. It's more than can be said of a few of their aging compatriots, and even more suprisingly, more than can be said of most everyone else trying to bring their game to the floors. 14-Oct-2002 10:45 PM