Wednesday, May 26, 1999

Down Time

Posted By on Wed, May 26, 1999 at 12:00 AM

According to recent interviews, Underworld vocalist Karl Hyde has sobered up since the days when the band’s single, "Born Slippy," was clocking time as the junkie opus on the Trainspotting soundtrack. There’s no detecting the change on Beaucoup Fish, however — Hyde’s jumbled up, stream-of-consciousness monologues still constitute the most recognizable element of the Underworld sound, and the music provided by bandmates Darren Emerson and Rick Smith still evokes a blurry, post-clubbing world.

And that’s the most interesting thing about Underworld: Although you could happily lose yourself dancing to the pounding beat of songs such as "Shudder" and "King of Snakes" and the recent club anthem "Moaner," the bulk of the group’s work seems ill-suited for the interior of a club. There’s something altogether elegiac about such tracks as the trancey "Winjer," on which Hyde murmurs, "You could take your top off" over and over again, as though it were a memory haunting him, or the dark, soulful "Skym," an ode to an old love, in which the most forceful lyric is "I don’t want you to call again."

Indeed, both in its commemoration of a relationship that’s ended painfully and its spirit of having fucked off a scene the band’s members have seen too much of, Beaucoup Fish is not so different from Blur’s recent 13 The finest examples of this are elegant parallel tracks, "Push Upstairs" and "Push Downstairs." However, unlike 13, where the strongest tracks are the most moving, the standouts on Beaucoup Fish are the ones that move — specifically, the kicking "Bruce Lee" (sorry) and the sunny, addictive "Jumbo." The moodier tracks may call you into an audio-suggested high, but it is distinctly the high of the cloakroom at the end of the night, when you know you should have had fun, but all you feel is empty.


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