A Hundred Days Off
label: JBO / V2 / BMG
our score: 4.0 out of 5.0
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
by the immense popularity of their track "Born Slippy"
that was so prominently featured in the Scottish film, Trainspotting).
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.
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.
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.
liked A Hundred Days Off...
1. Mo Move
2. Two Months Off
4. Sola Sistim
5. Little Speaker
7. Ess Gee
8. Dinosaur Adventure 3D
9. Ballet Lane