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Album review

Underworld

I’d bought the singles beforehand, as I always did (remember CD singles kids?

They were all the rage back then). I loved Push Upstairs and played it to death. Its violent red cover positively pulsated with life, as did the track that lay therein.

That dark blue of the album cover, by comparison, just did not work for me. Then, it happened. It was like a massive vacuum opened up and sucked me right in. Cups is one of the best album openers I’ve ever heard. It is slow, it is warm, and it is seductive. Thanks to some expert sonic remastering, here, it sounds even better than it did 18 years ago, with the bass amped up.

Underworld’s music has always been very visual, very cinematic and nowhere more than on Beaucoup Fish does this come across. You can see the thing Karl Hyde is commanding you to push in Push Upstairs. You want to form your own visions and memories to it.

Even now, I still want to find out how that old boy got on fighting the snake in King Of Snake. The heart-stopping thump of Kittens. The joyous, uncontrolled rush of Jumbo. It’s all here and more.

There is a pure treasure trove of extras as well. All the different remixes from the singles are lined up and in order. Some of them, being kind, are very much of their time. The Futureshock Vocal Mix of Jumbo is a prime example. Its overblown big beats and drawn-out samples sound very stale and very dated.

If there is one track that dominates this whole set, then it is Push Upstairs. This is the school bully of the whole set. Its heart-racing drums knock you sideways right from the outset. Its pounding and insistent house-style piano riff is like an extreme sonic gut punch from which you never fully recover. Its’ sound and senses seep right through the whole album.

Push Downstairs, is the sour pud of the set, just like it always was. It is too slow and dreary and really just does not know what to do with itself. Thankfully, however, it is a mere ripple in an ocean of sonic excellence.

The best remixes of all are from King Of Snake. Each one really brings out the drama and the subtle tension of the track. Each one makes sure you hear something you have never heard before in the track. Push Upstairs falls slightly short here, each of the remixers being far too in love with the track to really do anything creative with it. They are all full of bombast and hot air and house vibes.

The bunch of demos are interesting in that they show all the directions that the album could have gone in. Nifter from November 1997 shows a band still trying to shake off the traces of both Born Slippy and Second Toughest In The Infants. Ramajama from the same time period shows a band playing and testing the hell out of their instruments, their equipment and also each other. Part of the deliciousness of Underworld has always been that they are always striving to test and stretch each other. The frustrating thing is, though, even in their weaker moments, Underworld still produces hugely enjoyable dance music.