Underworld - Dubnobasswithmyheadman (1993) Review



Decisively shutting the door on their ‘80s sound, Underworld’s debut LP presents itself as the thinking man’s techno record. The overall sound of the album is ambient rather than exuberant and wouldn’t sound out of place among the trip-hop sound that was gaining popularity around the time this came out.

“Cowgirl” is the obvious dancefloor ripper here, with its deep bass drop buttressing Hyde’s vocodered half-sung, half-spoken refrain of “Why don’t you call me, I feel like flying with you”. But it’ll be the downtempo cuts that have aged better and given the band its distinctive sound. “Dirty Epic” is an icily seductive trip down a dark spiral of love and betrayal full of little love notes to the acid house and dub reggae the band grew up around. “Skyscraper I Love You”’s tribal drum beats and dark atmospherics make it a captivating listen despite it’s 13-minute run time.

‘M.E’ works flawlessly as an album closer, despite being quite far removed from their dance material. Its sublime grooves are closer to ambient trip hop than anything else. But more importantly, it is perhaps the only bit of connective tissue linking them to their ‘80s new wave/soft rock origins. Live versions from 1989 then titled ‘‘Mother Earth’ are floating around online, featuring a less electronic, more acid house-like Madchester sound. There’s a certain etherealism to hearing Hyde sing ‘It’s a beautiful destination // Goodbye world’, as if foretelling the band’s future success in a new reincarnation. Like Joy Division performing ‘Ceremony’, It’s a rendition of the song that’s frozen in time, never to be heard again.


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