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- Underworld »
Forget that this lot are fortysomethings who have day jobs as directors at an obscure ad agency. Forget that they used to have worse haircuts than Sigue Sigue Sputnik. Forget that at their nadir, they were Debbie Harry’s backing band at Wembley Stadium and that they made some of the most godawful dance-funk that the 80’s ever saw. Please try to, because they’re much better these days.
There is no way a bunch of middle-aged Romford dads from washed up 80’s funk bands should ever be this good. They should never had suddenly turned leftfield in 1992, got a reputation for playing legendary three-hour gigs, and made one of the best albums of all time in the shape of _“Dubnobasswithmyheadman”. _
This is music for every part of you. Music for your feet, music for your soul, music for your brain. There’s rhythms that you just have to obey. Lyrics that scan like like ee cummings on speed. And sounds that come from the future, even though they’re a decade old.
But Underworld aren’t some cabaret act. They aren’t just trotting out old songs like a factory - each time they play these songs they evolve, change shape, meld into each other. The opening song is a 20 minute nonstop-estatic-dancing medley of 'Dark Hard', 'Dark Train', 'Dark + Long', 'Cowgirl' and 'Rez'. That’s better than some people’s whole careers.
They’re not just about their glorious recent past - despite 'Born Slippy','Push Upstairs','Jumbo','King Of Snake', 'Pearls Girl', and a gobsmacking, levitational 10 minute version of 'Mmmm, Skyscraper I Love You / Dirty Epic' - but about the future. A world that still looks and feels like today, with the same mundane fears and struggles, but a world that’s older, sleeker, and sadly wiser.
At the heart of all these songs, despite the joyous hands-in-the-air life-affirming moments, there’s a deep sadness - an awareness that for every moment of elation, there is a depression, and Underworld songs always hover on the knife-edge, always connect with that feeling when you know you’ve had too much to drink, know you really should go home, but you want to stay just that little bit longer. Which is why I missed the last tube home. Again.
Underworld gigs are legendary - and rightly so. These are the moments where you feel connected to everything, where you’re not just a person stood in a hall somewhere in Brixton at 1AM, but just part of some huge, unified machine called Mankind.
Must be the drugs. Must be the music. Must be that secret, missing thing we spend our whole lives looking for. I don’t know what the hell it is. And music like this is why I love music so damn much. It’s one of the best things about being alive.
** Hubba Hubba Mega Mega Mmm Underworld I Love You.