Underworld Beaucoup Fish
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few albums have been so keenly expected as the new musical opus from Underworld, the oddly named Beaucoup Fish. Most famous for their track “Born Slippy”, which was featured prominently in the film of Irvine Welsh’s Trainspotting a couple of years ago, Underworld nearly didn’t survive long enough to produce their next album. With the unexpected success of “Born Slippy”, Underworld were suddenly the band of the moment and threatened to be eclipsed by a song they considered so throwaway that it doesn’t appear on any of their three albums. Thankfully, after the usual rock star cycle of fear and self-loathing, Underworld have re-emerged with a collection of songs that reinforces their reputation as the most original dance act the UK has ever produced. If the Prodigy are the Sex Pistols with a beat box and the Chemical Brothers are a cackling younger sibling let loose on your record collection with a chainsaw, Underworld are altogether somewhere else. Don’t get me wrong – Underworld will sonically rip your head off if you want them to, with slices of raw electricity like “Kittens” and “Moaner” (first heard on the Batman and Robin soundtrack album). But where their enduring appeal lies is that you don’t know what to expect next from an Underworld album. One minute you’re in enveloped in the dancefloor inferno of “King Of Snake”, the next you’re thoughtfully drifting along to the melancholy melodies of “Wynger”, all the while accompanied by the surreal, cut-up lyrics of Karl Hyde. Underworld: Beaucoup Fish It’s this mixture of precise mechanoid structure and freeform human voices that make Underworld one of the warmest sounding bands around – ironic for three guys who treat and manipulate virtually every sample that passes through their hands. “Cups”, Beaucoup Fish’s opening track, is a case in point – listening to it feels like sun rays on your face. Moreover, like any great band’s output, Beaucoup Fish repays repeated listening – except for the aforementioned dancefloor fillers, it can easily pass you by the first time. But what appears to be a random collection of tracks soon metamorphoses into an intricate and beautiful landscape of sound. Live, Underworld are interested in making you move. While DJ Darren Emerson and knob-twiddler extraordinaire Rick Smith are gently bobbing up and down behind their wall of equipment, Karl Hyde is out front exhorting the crowd on to ever greater heights, not with his voice, but with his own brand of don’t-give-a-fuck dancing and a smile the width of the ocean. Visuals courtesy of the avant-garde design collective Tomato wash the entire stage, while live pictures of the crowd and band are superimposed over the top as the music moves further and further up the scale, intoxicating and irresistible. Underworld may be a band who ooze intelligence in everything they do from their record sleeves to their musical preferences, but that doesn’t stop them wanting you to lose yourself in their sounds. So, if you’re still wondering what Underworld sound like, the answer is: they sound like Underworld. For all their categorisation as a dance outfit, there are no bands to whom Underworld sound similar or to whom they owe an obvious musical debt. Underworld have created not only their own sound but their own genre. You won’t see or hear their like again.