Sunday, August 09, 2009

Underworld - Pearl's Girl

Underworld's run between Dubnobasswithmyheadman and Beacoup Fish is some of my favorite music of the 90s. To this, you may cross your arms and type out a resounding "LOL!" with your toes as you breathe a contented sigh that your evening plans -- perhaps taking in the afterparty of the Diplo/Major Lazer/Dam Funk show and then getting a few chicks there to take you in, just another ordinary night -- don't involve any music so stale, nostalgic, or inextricably bound to such rockist traditions as Britpop or 90's alt. rock radio. You're a young turk and if you're in a generous mood, maybe you'll toss us a few tantalizing Tweets throughout the night so we can vicariously join you in your adventures as we sit at home playing Wipeout XL. So why am I wasting your time with this shit? We'll get to that soon.

I'd go to bat for the surprisingly-dismissed A Hundred Days Off from 2002, but I won't push my luck and will settle for summarizing the five juiciest years of their career within this paragraph. From 1994 to 1999, three great albums, two of which Allmusic gives the perfect 5-star Crash and Rollover rating to (Stephen Thomas Erlewine himself personally blessing Second Toughest In the Infants). Dubnobasswithmyheadman peeled away the shitty INXS-isms of the band's previous work and fused their synthpop stylings onto scraps of techno and acid left over the fallout of the UK rave scene. Must have been ridiculous to hear this in 1994! These dark soundscapes were stepped up into rolling electrofunk floorburners in Second Toughest In the Infants, when they struck it rich with the non-album single "Born Slippy." If their fans were once a future-obsessed or introspective group (no idea if this was the case or not, tbh), their ranks were now swollen with an up and coming new generation of chavs digging their larger-than-life sounds. Beacoup Fish arrived in 1999, riding the final waves of the electronica boom and producing what was probably their last radio hit in "Push Upstairs." This aerobics anthem would mark the end of their success in the United States, as follow-up albums failed to yield any radio-friendly unit shifters. Adding insult to injury, the existence of the blockbuster 2003 movie displaced the group's very existence from the minds of most Americans, who would eventually come to hear the name "Underworld" and only think of Kate Beckinsale in leather. Well into 2009, a quick Google search confirms this is still the case.

In between those albums, though, the band released a few really great EPs. The various Born Slippy discs being the most coveted and best known, comprising some great remixes -- something about these feel so much more natural and uncontrived than the "look at all the interesting friends we have/artists we can summon with a mere wave of our hand" that Nine Inch Nails began to employ at around the same time, a big selling point that Animal Collective smartly picked up on as their cult has grown in recent years -- and solid b-sides and alternate takes that make a lot of their album tracks sound like the throwaways. Pearl's Girl is heavy on these tracks, more than an hour of the hottest jams that might have flown "under the radar" for most fans. Still not convinced? If you like Pavement, Clouddead, Sonic Youth, Nirvana, or those William Burroughs "cut-ups" or whatever they're called, then just imagine their lyrics set to a throbbing techno beat! If you enjoy the sound/repetition of certain words together more than their actual meaning, then Underworld has what you want, when you want it!

My copy came with a card you could mail in to get a Wax Trax! catalog. Spoofing advertisements or making subversive commercials was a hot trend in 90s electronic music. So was using the image of the "random Asian guy," as seen in the Pearl's Girl CD tray.


Download: "Cherry Pie"

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