A single CD of short edits is an odd thing for a prog-techno act who specialize in spacious songs that often run for more than 10 minutes. The live "Cowgirl" is nothing and the dubstep moves are clumsy. No matter: Motormouth vocalist Karl Hyde and music man Rick Smith (plus, in the Nineties, Darren Emerson) headline festivals because they craft hooks, however abstruse at times.
This one-disc run through Underworld's 20-year career serves a purpose, yet newcomers should know this prime techno act already has a couple of necessary albums (Dubnobasswithmyheadman and Second Toughest in the Infants), plus there's a companion release to this set (1992-2012) that features the "real" full-length versions of most of these cuts, although you do have to shell out for a second disc. On top of this all, folks intrigued by Underworld generally fall in love with them, so this gateway drug will likely become redundant. All that being said, the strength of this material is undeniable, and when you put "King of Snake," "Born Slippy NUXX," and "Pearls Girl" all on the same set -- even in their single edits -- you'd have to be the king or queen of nitpicky to not award that set gold status.
Not everybody is around for 20 years or more, and not everybody who makes it that far deserves much of a commemoration. But questions of longevity aside (and continued productivity—2010’s Barking continued Underworld’s strong third act, and between soundtrack work and being the musical directors for the London Olympics, Karl Hyde and Rick Smith show no signs of slowing down), Underworld are justly a big deal. For years they’ve made excellent, emotionally clued-in, endlessly pleasurable techno, and in a lot of ways their blurring of the lines between techno and rock, dance music and emotional/psychological/observational narratives, home listening and club listening, make them the forerunners of a lot of what’s currently interesting and popular in dance music.