Underworld A Hundred Days Off Review

Released 2002.  

BBC Review

Rick Smith and Karl Hyde reassert their credentials after a prolonged absence and the...

Andy Puleston 2002

We know it's been hard... But the wait is almost over.

This was always going to be a difficult time for any Underworld fan. The internal wranglings post Beaucoup Fish and the departure of Darren Emerson left many wondering whether we'd seen the last of Underworld. And, there were worries that if they decided not to split, would Karl Hyde and Rick Smith be able to resurrect themselves as a leaner, fitter version of the band? One that was prepared to reboot the machines, plug in the headphones and dig deep for the inspiration for the fourth instalment in one of dance music's best sagas.

Underworld minus Darren Emerson still equals... erm... Underworld. Musically, the absence of Emerson is hard to detect which in turn leads us to believe that it has been the vastly underrated, creative genius of Rick Smith in the driving seat all along. That said, A Hundred Days Off doesn't follow that trend of being significantly different from the last album as per the contrasts between Dubnobasswithmyheadman and Second Toughest In The Infants. This record might best be tagged Beaucoup Fish, Mark Deux although this is not indicative of a lack of progress. Far from it.

"SolaSistim" with its drifting, spacious lope provides the scenery for Karl's gritty, stream of consciousness poetry. The voice is hazy and distant, "My crystal fingers, beautiful, broken, a glass like rain, my illumination".Further sublime moments come in the form off"Little Speaker" and "Luetin"yet the album isn't afraid to rock out every once in a while. The most aggressive track on the record being "Dinosaur Adventure3D". Reminiscent of "Moaner" the relentless, pounding kick drums, fizzing cymbals and flanged synth stabs create a gigantic track complete with a full set of gnashers.

Since Beaucoup Fish, Karl Hyde has conquered alcoholism and the results have been seismic. The dark, internalised ramblings that once mused on the emptiness in his 501s and the frenetic rants that characterised tracks like "King of Snake" and "Pearl's Girl" have been replaced with a renewed optimism and passion. As the swell of that fanfare rises out of layers of crunchy, pulsing, techno, Karl's mantra loops over and over, "You bring light, you bring light in". In "Two Months Off" we have a classic, maybe even their best yet. This is the soundtrack to their return and ascension, a hymn to their triumphs and the ultimate reward for those who have had their fingers, toes, arms, legs and souls crossed in the hope that we would be blessed with another Underworld record.

We are not worthy.

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