AUTUMN MUSIC SPECIAL
EASY EVERY THING
They said it could never happen, but UNDERWORLD have produced a live album that really rocks. Now they're gOil‘lg WOTCSI Mark Robertson
You must remember those cheesy electronic moments from Top Of The Pops: a slew of bomber-jacketed lads hopping awkwardly in front of unplugged keyboards while some overly made-up lass wailed out that week’s answer to ’Ride On Time’. These lads may well have been the brains behind their particular piece of synthetic pop genius, but they didn’t half look twats trying to prove it. Christ, even Kraftwerk, the pioneers of the whole electronic scene were so nerdy that they missed Top Of The Pops altogether and ended up on Tomorrow’s World instead.
It is with peculiar irony, then, that the finest live record to come out in donkey’s years is made not by a guitar-driven rock act, but a band who make boffiny electronic keyboard music. Underworld's Everything, Everything is an 80-minute document which shows that, despite keeping a drum kit in a small plastic box and having only one, infrequently used guitar, they are as good as any live act in the UK today. It also demonstrates why the words ’live' and ’electronic music’ are no longer strange bedfellows.
Culled from two nights in Japan during the tour for their last album Second Toughest In The Infants, the music represents the trio at their transcendental peak. 'We always improvise so it’s different every night,’ says frontman and vocalist Karl Hyde. ’The CD is those two nights in particular.’ The gigs bind together crushing beats, burbling, swooping and soaring electronic pulses, Karl Hyde's sampler/guitar abuse and cut-up vocal ramblings to devastating effect and rapturous response.
After the departure of Darren Emerson earlier this year, citing the old chestnut of
band are at a watershed.
In the entire duration of our conversation, Hyde manages to avoid ever naming Emerson directly, referring instead to a lack of egos and tension within the band now, and the rigidity of the relationship between himself and remaining founder member Rick Smith. Perhaps just keen to avoid dissing his old mate, he maintains a dignified silence, despite persistent cajoling. Of his relationship with Smith, Hyde gushes with enthusiasm. ‘He’ll finish something and go "could’ve done better” and you’re like "dammit you bastard, you’re right",’ he says. ’He's also there if you ever feel like resting on your laurels, you get a dig in the ribs and a
"hey, sort it out .
No ego problem for Karl Hyde and Rick Smith
Everything, Everything is not just a live album, it is also an interactive music DVD; the first of its kind. ’Rick conceived this about eighteen months ago,’ says Hyde. ’It came out of the idea that we were playing fairly consistently and enjoying the shows and he could tell we were about to evolve so it was a good opportunity to document it in some way.’ DVD is Underworld's new tool of choice, giving fans not only access to the visuals and soundtrack, with the ability to re- mix, re-order, re-edit tracks as they please, but also, in hooking up with the internet, the chance to take things even further. 'l'm very excited because the DVD that goes in your telly is a document of the group as it existed with the Tomato visuals,’ says Hyde, referring to the creative collective known for its work as artists and graphic and web designers. ’But it is also showing a way into the kind of stuff that Rick and l have been doing in parallel with Underworld for ten years as individual artists and as part of Tomato. We are going to be giving away new audio and visual material every day for the first month via the website. It’s something that we see as an ongoing project, so for us, the DVD will never be finished.’
But what of the music? Surely for those without the technological ephemera, this is a good old-fashioned live record? 'When I was a kid I remember having Deep Purple's Made In Japan,’ says Hyde in a moment of tangential reminiscence. ’It still sounds great, but when you read the sleeve notes you see that they were so sick of bootlegs that they wanted something that they felt represented them as a live band. It belongs in its own era, but I remember first hearing it and going "wow".’
Hopefully this electronic descendent will provoke the same reaction.
The audio version of Everything, Everything is out now. The DVD is out on Mon 9 Oct, both on V2.