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With a title like “Everything Everything” this sets its standards as pretty exhaustive, pretty high. So there you are, on the tube going back to Romford, and there’s a strange buzz in your ear. Shouting Lager Lager Lager Lager White thing mega mega white thing something or other. Nice one, geezer sorted got any underlay? Still can’t shake that buzzing noise, someones shouting “good vibe!” in their worst mockney accent in your ear, that high pitched ringing in your ears from an aural night of sculpture bashing. That’s roughly what this album is like. Roughly. Well, very roughly even. But in a good way, you understand.
Culled from two consecutive gigs in Europe (Pukkelpop in Belgium, Lowlands festival in Holland) this is best viewed as less of a completist live collection despite the promise of the title (it weighs in at 75 minutes, under half the length of the average Underworld live show), more as a snapshot of two nights on tour, despite it taking over a year to complete the mixing and preparation: most of which went into the DVD and VHS editions, which allow all sorts of extra gubbbins. All that doesn’t matter if the music isn’t up to scratch. Thankfully, for the most part, this acts as a pretty good resume of Underworlds best moments to date, and as an example of how good they can be live. However, the album doesn’t even come close to the atmosphere of the live show. However, whilst the tracks are impeccably mixed and the sound quality is top notch, the crowd noise seems intrusive (with notably obvious edits between tracks on at least one occasion) and ridiculously hackneyed stage raps in mockney accents from Karl Hyde (singer), which often detract from the awesome aural pyrotechnics emanating from the CD. It seems that when Karl Hyde opens his mouth he comes across as a hybrid of Mr C (in the worst possible way) and Alf Garnett.
Starting off with 3 continuous tracks from Pukkelpop in Belgium, this album gets across a fairly faithful sounding live experience with a rendition of “Juanita - Kiteless”/”Cups”/”Push Upstairs”. If nothing else, this continual mix shows how good at improvising on stage Underworld can be, with nary even a dropped beat throughout the album. Its pretty much a run-through of some of Underworlds finest moments, as over half of the tracks featured have been singles in their own right, but lengthy too, as the tracks average out at over 9 minutes each. “Pearls Girl” (from Lowlands) continues to raises the adrenalin it even higher, a mesh of beats and gobbledegook vocals, but lyrics always were a stream of consciousness thing for Underworld anyway, seeming taking the Def Leppardian approach of using the vocals as another instrument, concentrating on meter and rhythm rather than meaning and comprehensibility. “Jumbo”(Belgium) however, whilst being commendable, is the most forgettable track on the album.
Next up is the final stream of 3 tracks, mixed together with crowd noise. “Shudder/King of Snake” (Holland) you probably know, stealing the thunderous rumpshaking bassline from Giorgio Moroder’s fantastic euro-disco classic “I feel love”, reworking it into a completely different but even more potent dancefloor beast. “Born Slippy.Nuxx” (recorded in Belgium) is the big breakthrough single everyone knows, the “lager lager lager” refrain that seems to sum up perceptions of Essex for everyone whose never been there, rearranged into some hard house classic. Thumping bpms from the off, it more resembles the original extended mixes before then dropping into the lovely synth line everyone remembers, making it sound totally familiar and yet completely afresh at the same time. The crowd applause when they hear the stuttering synth parts just gives away how much the audience want to hear this, and whilst predictable, is one the less probably one of the finest moments on the album. Finally, it’s the standout moment, the set closing and CD closing “Rez/Cowgirl” (recorded in Holland). Originally conceived from the same template, the two separate tracks are merged as one, and Rez is as always beyond compare, an example of the British school of electronica at its best. Cowgirl, recent single (if you ever been out clubbing and wondered why you were hearing the nonsensical lyric “I’m an eraser of love”, then this song is why), finishes the CD suitably and impressively.
“Everything Everything”, while not living up to the lofty aims of its title, and seeming neutered when taken away from the live environment, is certainly a powerful document of Underworld live, and a significant argument to prove that dance music can work in the live arena, when treated as something other than an excuse for a live PA. Ultimately though, it doesn’t outstay its welcome, and proves that dance music can be valid when recorded live. Live dance music may once have been an anachronism, but not anymore. This is the proof.