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Underworld is a British electronic group featuring duo Karl Hyde and Rick Smith since around 1987. The band's music ranges from House, Trance, electro-pop and pretty much everything in between. Hyde and Smith had worked together in a bunch on New Wave and synthpop bands including The Screen Gemz and Freur, before moving on to their own funkier brand of synthpop under the name Underworld. This phase of their career, now called "Underworld Mk1", produced two decent albums with moderate chart success, even opening for Eurythmics on a 1989 tour.

By the start of The '90s, Smith began collaborating by a young DJ named Darren Emerson, who was keen on working in a professional studio; Smith in turn wanted to feed his interest in UK club culture. Smith introduced Emerson to Hyde and the rest is history. Underworld returned in 1992 with a string of hit acid house and techno singles — some under the name Lemon Interrupt — before releasing their third album, 1994's dubnobasswithmyheadman. It is this phase, dubbed "Underworld Mk2", that the band is most famous for, releasing two additional, highly acclaimed albums and a plethora of singles, exploring breakbeat, trance and hardcore techno. Two of their most famous songs come from this period: "Dark and Long (Dark Train)" and "Born Slippy .NUXX", two songs which propelled Underworld into international fame after their use in Trainspotting.

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Emerson left Underworld in 2001 to focus on his own recordings and record label management, leaving Underworld as a duo. Smith and Hyde have continued to record under the moniker "Underworld Mk3", releasing (as of 2016) four additional albums and numerous EPs of new material. Underworld also directed the music for the opening ceremony of the 2012 Olympic Games in London. They reside in Essex, UK and are part of the art collective Tomato, which has provided all of the artwork and photography for their albums.

Underworld's music has been featured in numerous films and television shows, and the band have enjoyed a special relationship with director Danny Boyle, who has used their music in nearly all of his films — to the point where they have written exclusive songs for them. The duo have also composed film scores, including those for Breaking and Entering and Sunshine.

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Band Members:

  • Karl Hyde (Born 10th May 1957, Worcester, England) - Vocals, guitars (1986–present)
  • Rick Smith (Born 25th May 1959, Ammanford, Wales) - Keyboards, mixing, production (1986–present)
  • Darren Price - Keyboards, mixing and live assistant (2005–present)
  • Darren Emerson - Keyboards and mixing (1991–2000)
  • Alfie Thomas - Guitar (1986–1990)
  • Bryn Burrows - Drums (1986–1988)
  • Baz Allen - Bass (1986–1990)
  • Pascal Consoli - Drums (1989–1990)

Discography:

Albums

  • 1988 - Underneath the Radar
  • 1989 - Change the Weather
  • 1994 - dubnobasswithmyheadman
  • 1996 - Second Toughest in the Infants
  • 1999 - Beaucoup Fish
  • 2000 - Everything, Everything (live album)
  • 2002 - A Hundred Days Off
  • 2007 - Oblivion with Bells
  • 2010 - Barking
  • 2016 - Barbara Barbara, We Face a Shining Future
  • 2018 onward - DRIFT (audiovisual project, released song-by-song weekly with periodic Episodes also released)

Soundtracks

  • 2004 - wordimagesoundplay
  • 2006 - Breaking and Entering
  • 2008 - Sunshine
  • 2011 - Frankenstein (stage play directed by Danny Boyle)
  • 2012 - Isles of Wonder: Music for the Opening Ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games (directed by Danny Boyle, with collaborations by High Contrast, the London Symphony Orchestra, Arctic Monkeys, Dame Evelyn Glennie, Mike Oldfield and Emeli Sande, among others)
  • 2019 - Manchester Street Poem (Installation Score) (released as part of DRIFT)

Compilation

  • 2003 - 1992-2002
  • 2011 - 1992-2012 The Anthology
  • 2011 - A Collection (companion release to 1992-2012, featuring radio edits)
  • 2019 - DRIFT Series 1 (7xCD box set, which includes as disc 7...)
  • 2019 - DRIFT Series 1 - Sampler Edition

Trope Examples:

  • Album Title Drop: Barking comes from a line in "Always Loved a Film," while the live album/DVD Everything Everything comes from the "Cowgirl" part of "Rez/Cowgirl" in the playlist.
    • The phrase Oblivion With Bells appears on "Faxed Invitation"
    • The field recording that begins "Jumbo" appears to be where the phrase Beacoup Fish originatesnote .
  • The Alcoholic: The notoriously convoluted lyrics of "Born Slippy .NUXX" are the Inner Monologue of one. As a matter of fact, Hyde was an alcoholic at the time he wrote the song.
  • Ambient: A notable example is "To Heal", aka "Capa Meets The Sun" on the Sunshine soundtrack.
    • The 2006 EP I'm a Big Sister, And I'm a Girl, And I'm a Princess, And This Is My Horse is done mostly in this style.
  • Arc Words: "Romford" pops up often.note 
    • "Push Upstairs" (and the softer version "Push Downstairs") and "Moaner" off of Beaucoup Fish feature the lines: "I know about you I been told about you" after a lyrics about kissing, then followed by some version of "I've been waiting for you and the air's thin."
  • Badass Boast: The title of Second Toughest in the Infants were the words that came out of member Rick Smith's son's mouth when asked by his father how his progress at infant school (essentially, kindergarten in England) was going.
  • B-Side : The band has an insane number of these, with some EPs in their early days being even longer than their proper studio albums. The b-sides for "Dark & Long" and "Pearls Girl" are notable and well-respected entries in the band's catalogue, to the point where "Dark & Long (Dark Train)" is one of their biggest hits, and the entire US-printed Pearls Girl EP (over an hour long) was included in the 2015 box set version of Second Toughest in the Infants.
  • Design Student's Orgasm / Minimalistic Cover Art: Underworld is split fifty/fifty on this. Their middle period featured simple, fluid statements while their early and later period album covers were bold, messily busy affairs.
  • Electronic Music: All of their "Mk2" music is made electronically, though they have incorporated guitar lines and effects at several points throughout their career.
  • Epic Rocking: Many of their songs (and almost all of their remixes for other artists) go on for over ten minutes. "Dark & Long" takes the cake, with two mixes that run over 20 minutes each, and another that's a few seconds short of 18. It also says something that their greatest hits albums only have two or three songs under 7 minutes in length.
    • Their debut album Underneath the Radar was recorded in sequence in one take, just to show how technically proficient they were as musicians.
    • Second Toughest in the Infants opens with their two longest non-remixed songs back to back: the 16:36 "Juanita : Kiteless : To Dream of Love", followed by the 15:22 "Banstyle/Sappys Curry". The lead single off of that album, "Pearls Girl", runs 9:38; and only a short ambient interlude goes under 7 minutes.
    • "Appleshine Continuum" (with The Necks), from DRIFT Episode 2, is a live jam session that goes over 47 minutes. The followup jam "Altitude Dub Continuum" runs 31 minutes.
    • A staple of their live shows for most of The '90s, thanks to heavy use of Fading into the Next Song and bridges between songs. The 'European Club Gig' bootleg, recorded in 1996, with the first real break coming at the 80 minute, at which point Karl Hyde announces a brief break of 15-20 minutes!
  • Gratuitous Rap:
    • All of "Ring Road". It was not particularly well received.
    • Repeated on "Hundred Weight Hammer".
  • Improv: Most of their live performances feature heavy improvisation, especially in the early years as they didn't have much material to work with otherwise. The Super Deluxe edition of dubnobasswithmyheadman features a live-in-the-studio performance where 3 of the 7 songs are simply labelled "Improv".
  • Indecipherable Lyrics: Karl's odd phrasing and accent make for a lot of these.
  • Live Album : Everything, Everything, which functioned like a victory lap.
  • Long Title: The 2006 EP I'm a Big Sister, And I'm a Girl, And I'm a Princess, And This Is My Horse.
  • Looped Lyrics: "Pearls Girl". Crazycrazycrazycrazycrazy...
  • New Sound Album: dubnobasswithmyheadman signaled the departure from guitar-based Synth-Pop to straightforward Electronic Music (specifically techno, big beat, hardcore and trance.)
    • A Hundred Days Off began showcasing softer arrangements, with interests in Latin percussion and ambient music.
    • Barking signaled a return to synthpop and was their first album to feature an array of guest producers, including Mark Knight and High Contrast.
    • The recent DRIFT series has seen Underworld record music in a variety of styles they never before touched, including improvisational jazz ("A Very Silent Way"), New Age ("Molehill"), soul ("Dune"), and whatever the hell "Hundred Weight Hammer" is.
  • Old Master: Underworld have been going strong for thirty years, with the longest-serving members having performed for even longer prior to that. The group has shown no signs of slowing down, and they're largely considered one of the most legendary electronic groups in existence for this very reason: any electronic producer worth their weight has name-checked or made some sort of tribute to Underworld during their own career.
  • Rearrange the Song: Done quite often, particularly in the 00's. "You Do Scribble" bounced around their setlist for several years before finally getting released as "Scribble", in a totally different style. "Always Loved a Film" went through many iterations before becoming the radio-friendly dance track it is now (including one called "Silver Boots", with completely different lyrics).
    • A lot of early compositions were based off each other, most obviously "Cowgirl" which was born because Karl wanted to find a way to add lyrics to "Rez". The two often segue into each other in live performances.
  • Refrain from Assuming: Their two biggest hits, "Dark & Long (Dark Train)" and "Born Slippy .NUXX", are actually remixes. The original songs actually sound nothing like their remixes. Not helping matters is that music publications and even other musicians have dropped the "(Dark Train)" and ".NUXX" parts of the names when discussing, covering or remixing these two songs.
  • Remix Album: Played with on Barking, as the band decided to farm out the tunes to different remixers and then make that the actual album, much to the chagrin of their hardcore fans. As of 2019, the originals remain unreleased (if they exist at all), though the deluxe version did include a second disc of each song in various stages of development.
  • Shout-Out: The names of several Underworld tracks are actually taken from greyhounds that raced at Romford Greyhound Stadium. "Born Slippy", "Pearls Girl" and "Sappys Curry".
    • Karl Hyde has revealed, to his own surprise after becoming sober and recognizing the face on TV, "Born Slippy" has a shoutout to Bill Bailey.
  • Shout-Out to Shakespeare: "And I Will Kiss" and "Caliban's Dream" are references to The Tempest, both used during the opening ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games in the segment celebrating the Industrial Revolution and the lighting of the Olympic Flame, respectively.
  • Song Style Shift : "Born Slippy .NUXX" is quite an obvious example of this.
  • Surprisingly Gentle Song : They usually do this once per album. "River of Bass", "Blueski", "Skym", "Ballet Lane", "To Heal", "Louisiana", "Motorhome"...
  • Trance: "Two Months Off" is a great example of Underworld's brand of this genre.
  • True Companions: One of the loosies from the DRIFT series, "Sydney Hotel Room Peal", was written by Rick for Karl to help with his insomnia. Karl noted in the liner notes for the song that Rick had a massive grin on his face when he went to record it in a stairwell, and that he himself took to loving the song immediately, even before knowing its true purpose.
  • Up to Eleven: Arguably the DRIFT series, in which the band, frustrated by their slow pace of work, challenged themselves to release one audiovisual song a week for a year. It's resulted in some of the best music the band has ever done, including a seven-disc retrospective box set containing the five "episode" EPs as well as hours worth of loosies, studio jams and live excerpts being released on the side.
  • Word Salad Lyrics: Underworld runs on this due to Hyde's very colourful metaphors in his poetry (a line in "Moaner", a song about a relationship gone south, is "I am a rack of ribs left alone in a full moon.") Despite the oblique nature of the lyrics, they're usually about experiences in everyday life. "Born Slippy .NUXX", whose lyrics were actually published after the song's popularity, are about a night out at the pubs during which Karl gave Bill Bailey - whom he didn't know at the time - £5 to "get a round in," followed by an accout of Karl's then-constant struggle to get up and catch the last train home after each night of drinking. "Pearls Girl" is about watching sailing ships and bonfires on the beach from late night to sunrise on the docks of Rioja, Spain while listening to Al Green records. "8 Ball" is simply about meeting ordinary people and receiving a hug Karl didn't know he needed that day.
    • Lampshaded in "Downpipe": "Don't give me that pain / Don't corner me on that 'poetry' thing".

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