Jem of Jemtunes, born in 1959, has now turned 59. So ‘The ’59’ celebrates 59 years of cracking tunes with a few albums from each year – 1959 through 2018. Currently we’re at year 37 – 1995.
Robin Risk and I went to a Leftfield gig at Brighton’s “The Event” back in early 1995 when they were promoting the release of Leftism, released on 30 January. Preceded by a DJ set, the band didn’t get to the stage until two in the morning, but then gave us a blistering two hours of progressive house, techno dub electronica.
Apart from the early hours start (a first for us), what blew us away – quite literally – was the power-wind of the bass. I guess the two drum kits either side of the stage should have given us a clue; those and the massive stacks of driver bins. But the pulse of the absolute depth of it was a living thing. It just grabbed you, gave you good shaking and didn’t let go. It still hasn’t 23 years on.
On 5 May 2017 Leftfield released Leftism 22. This re-release features a remastered album as well a bonus disc of remixes by current artists, including Adrian Sherwood.
Oblivion with Bells is the seventh studio album from Underworld, released on 3 October 2007 in Japan, 15 October 2007 in the EU and 16 October 2007 in the US. Due to the success of lead single “Crocodile” and the use of “To Heal” as a central theme in the film Sunshine, it had sold over 93,000 copies worldwide within 6 months.
The album received positive reviews from most music critics. Allmusic gave it 3 out of 5 stars saying
The acid techno is firmly in place, with little or no regard for developments in the form after the ’80s. Still, unlike other electronica mainstays who have occasionally revealed a little weariness — either from trying to change or trying to stay the same — Underworld never sound particularly tired on Oblivion with Bells.
In 2009 Beach Bateria sampled the kick line five minutes 10 seconds into ‘Beautiful Burnout’, the time signature of which never fails to mess with your head. It certainly did mine. Still mastered it though.
Following the huge success of the single “Born Slippy .NUXX” from its use in the film Trainspotting, Beaucoup Fish was Underworld’s most anticipated release. It spawned several successful singles, including “Push Upstairs”, “Jumbo” and “Moaner”, which was previously used in the film Batman & Robin.
It is the last studio album to feature Darren Emerson, who departed in 2001, and the third album by the techno/house orientated version of Underworld which became active in about 1991/1992 (tracks were being released around this time under the name of Lemon Interrupt).
In 2001 the Beach Bateria Samba band I played bottom surdo for in Sussex sampled ‘King of Snake’, using its opening drum sequence and pulsating bass line as inspiration for what became its most popular and most requested live performance piece.
Three anecdotes about this album. First anecdote – we caught the band on the first leg of the Leftism tour in Brighton on the year of its release. Two things about that gig; (1) it started at 02:00 in the morning – after the preceding three hour DJ set! and (2) when the bass hit it you – it hit you! It was a tangible thing – like a pressure wave. First (and to be honest) only time I’ve experienced that. Second anecdote – the band have just this year released a remastered version of Leftism as a double album; Leftism in all its remastered glory and Leftism as done by a host of respected other artistes and DJs including Quiet Village, Ben Sims, Dungeon Meat and Skream. I have both the original and the new one of course. Third anecdote – for around 11 years from the late 1990’s I played in a South Coast based samba band called Beach Bateria. Amongst our repertoire was a number called ‘Song of Life’ which was loosely based around the rhythm part of the Leftfield song and a sample I’d taken (and embellished) from the track.
Leftism, the first studio album from Paul Daley and Neil Barnes aka Leftfield was first released in January 1995 on Columbia Records. It contained a mixture of new tracks along with reworked versions of previous Leftfield singles together with guest spots from musicians not associated with dance music at the time such as John Lydon from Public Image Ltd. (and formerly of Sex Pistols) and Toni Halliday from Curve.
I’d waited 20 years to get to feel Underworld live. But last night in Brighton I finally got the chance. This threesome from London comprising Karl Hyde, Rick Smith and Darren Price are part-way through their UK/European “Dubnobasswithmyheadman” tour to celebrate the re-release last year of their first album. This tour replicates Dubnobasswithmyheadman in its entirety with a couple of other gems chucked in for good measure.
Rick Smith wasn’t very well, so it was just Mr Hyde and Mr Price last night – but the ‘feeling’ was still there in spades. And that’s the right thing to say. Because when ‘Dark and Long’ kicks in and the rhythm builds, you just know there’s going to be an explosion. And it’s a wall of sound that grabs you right there in the pit of your stomach and just sends you. It’s electric in every way.
The setlist was therefore a known certainty – Dark and Long, Mmmm Skyscraper I love you, Surfboy, Spoonman, Tongue, Dirty Epic, Cowgirl, River of Bass and m.e. But then there was a big bit of Bigmouth with Karl Hyde showing off his blues harp prowess to great aplomb, culminating in a standing ovation from a three thousand strong packed house just braying for more.
And we were not to be disappointed. How could we be? For, after a brief dark curtain, the duo returned to a dry-ice filled stage and the unmistakable dulcet tones of ‘Born Slippy’ drowned completely by three thousand plus people screaming at the tops of our voices.
That’s what I call a gig! One more thing to tick off of my bucket list – although it may get added back in because, given the chance, I’d one-hundred percent go again!
Underworld‘s fourth studio album earns classic status twice – once for the music and once for the sheer brilliance of the album title. Second Toughest in the Infants conjures up so much about so many things, brilliance being one of them. Just as well really as this is what this album is all about.
There are are ten instances of brilliance here. But shining for me remain ‘Kiteless’, ‘Stagger’ and particularly ‘Pearl’s Girl’. The kick line in the latter is ‘crazy crazy crazy crazy…’ etc ad infinitum but, to a certain three-year old future singer daughter of mine, Karl Hyde’s pronunciation made it sound like ‘Gracey, Gracey, Gracey, Gracey…’ ad infinitum.
The subtle kick line change stuck and remains. So, whenever I hear it on my Shuffle now, it brings a smile and a minds-eye picture of a three-year old daughter of mine.
Full track listing
To dreams of love
Confusion the waitress
Karl Hyde (voices)
Rick Smith & Darren Price (keys, sequencers and programming)