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Wednesday, Dec 17 2003
Formed in 1989, Underworld proved that galloping rhythms, pulsating techno beats, chiming melodies, and vocalist Karl Hyde's stream-of-consciousness, borderline nonsensical words could add up to a lot more than just a mindless, faceless dance number. To a genre that consisted mainly of unidentifiable knob-twiddlers, the group introduced personality (even if its frontman's guitar was used more as a prop than an instrument), and thus was one of the first recognizable bands in electronica.

Just in time for holiday shopping, Underworld has collected 16 of its more notable tracks for a two-disc retrospective, 1992-2002. While there are no bonus tracks, additional remixes, or alternate takes here, the album is still an evocative listen for anyone who has ever had a spine-tingling "Underworld moment," be it dancing through a DJ's mix of "Push Upstairs," experiencing the band's silver-screen soundtrack work (would Trainspotting have been as effective without the driving sounds of "lager, lager, lager" from "Born Slippy"?), or witnessing its dynamic live performances, which have been known to shake the very foundations of venues (this is only a mild exaggeration).

1992-2002 is a document of Underworld's aesthetic, one that pushed dance music past monotonous loops and reused beats, and that reinterpreted the classic band setup as a futuristic entity. The trio's revolutionary sound -- whether it is material from the early days or more recent, the shimmering synths of "Rez" to the advanced pop of "Dirty" -- has been weakly imitated by numerous cut-rate electronic acts. Not one of them, however, has been able to capture the group's distinct ability to hypnotize and at the same energize, or its singular use of repetition to create a never-ending tunnel of sound. So although this collection may not reveal anything new about Underworld, the presentation of some of the band's most colorful moments is a visceral reminder of its influence and originality.

About The Author

Lily Moayeri


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