Underworld: Dubnobasswithmyheadman (20th Anniversary Edition) – album reviewUnderworld: Dubnobasswithmyheadman (UMC)

LP / CD / DL

Out Now

10 / 10

Underworld’s dubnobasswithmyheadman is twenty this year and to celebrate a comprehensive reissue has been released, meticulously remastered at Abbey Road by the band’s Rick Smith. For Louder Than War Simon Tucker, a long standing fan of the band, reviews.

“Thunder, thunder, lightening ahead…”

And so it creeps in, a gentle pulsing beat, a motorik synth, a gentle caressing vocal mumbling into your ears cajoling you into getting onto the ride. Slowly layers of textures and metallic symphony enter the frame upping the emotional stakes. Rolling and rolling along the gentle voice morphs into geezerish slang and back again. Seven minutes of barb-wired honey…”and I kiss you dark and long…”

This is how we are introduced to the world of dubnobasswithmyheadman, the third Underworld album but their debut as a three piece after DJ Darren Emerson joined the group developing their synth-pop / krautrock tendencies into a different beast. Becoming more and more infused with the tropical heatwave that was Acid-House, the band created a masterwork in electronic music, opening a door through which many others would follow them through. Until dubnobass… the 12” record was king of the dance world with many producers just focusing their energies on that format eager to get their new cut played by a DJ of note, to a crowd of note, and at an event of note. After dubnobass… things became somewhat different with electronic artists and bands using the album format just like their indie/rock contemporaries.

Instead of just being a collection of 12” singles, dubnobass is a complete listening experience with songs often blending into each other making it similar to the early, glory days of Prog. In fact, over its running time, Underworld manage to touch upon every great piece of British music from the previous twenty-plus years with Bowie’s European adventures, Floyd’s sonic experiments, and Soul 2 Soul’s grooves all playing their part.

Lyrically, dubnobass also raised the bar for electronic artists as instead of just throwaway vocal stabs or, “get your hands in the air” call, we are treated to a patchwork of Gysin/Burroughs cut-and-paste beat poetry with seemingly unconnected and nonsensical phrases creating instantly memorable moments which linger in the mind long after the music has subsided. The best example of this is on the classic DirtyEpic. Over its near ten minute running time we enter the world of a man whose loss of sexual drive for his partner is enhanced by increasing dependency on phone-sex and voyeurism. As the song develops we witness the narrators relationship and mental state deteriorate with visions appearing to him, the most memorable of which is “Christ on crutches”. It is this phrase, even more so than the repeated refrain of “I get my kicks on channel six” that really intrigues and enthralls. What does it mean? Why is Christ on crutches? Is he broken by the sins of the narrator or the sins of the world? Is he coming back to reclaim the narrators soul or is he is back to punish? With this one phrase alone, the listeners mind can spin and weave its own meanings and understandings.  Not only is DirtyEpic a lyrical masterwork it is also beautifully emotive and we cling in hope that the narrator survives this episode though with the uttering’s of “here comes another God” our hopes of a recovery are slim. In fact worship, whether it a be a “God” or an object is a recurring theme of the album with Elvis, sex, and even skyscrapers all being presented as things to be desired and, praised, or even feared.

This reissue has been remastered by the bands own Rick Smith at Abbey Road studios and the results are extraordinary. You can now hear every nuance which makes the album just as enjoyable on headphones as it does on a loud system.

With the five disc box set we are treated to a slew of extras all of which warrant their place in the collection. This is not just an excuse to throw a load of B-sides or badly recorded demos out, this is given the buying public real bang for their buck with treats like Disc five’s live workings being a particular case in point.

However, it is still the main album that is the star of the show. After its release dance music truly broke through with Orbital headlining Glastonbury Festival and The Prodigy releasing their cold-steel chaotic masterpiece Music For The Jilted Generation all in the same year. Things really would never be the same again.

Dubnobasswithmyheadman is not a relic to be admired from afar or a piece of nostalgia. It is current, it is love, death, hope, dismay, triumph, and tragedy. A truly magical work that firmly belongs in the upper echelons of British music. A triumph of heart and machine.


Full Tracklist:

CD1 Dubnobasswithmyheadman

  • 1. Dark & Long
  • 2. Mmm…Skyscraper I Love You
  • 3. Surfboy
  • 4. Spoonman
  • 5. Tongue
  • 6. Dirty Epic
  • 7. Cowgirl
  • 8. River Of Bass
  • 9.M.E

CD2 Singles 1991 – 1994

  • 1. The Hump (Wild Beast)
  • 2. Eclipse (Released As Lemon Interrupt)
  • 3. Rez
  • 4. Dirty (Released As Lemon Interrupt)
  • 5. Dirtyguitar
  • 6. Dark & Long (Hall’s Edit)
  • 7. Dark & Long (Dark Train)
  • 8. Spikee

CD3 Remixes 1992 – 1994

  • 1.Mmm…Skyscraper I Love You (Jam scraper)
  • 2.Cowgirl (Irish Pub in Kyoto mix)
  • 3.Dark & Long (Most ‘ospitable mix)
  • 4. Mmm…Skyscraper I Love You (Telegraph 16.11.92)
  • 5. Dark & Long (Burts mix)
  • 6.Dogman Go Woof
  • 7. Dark & Long (Thing in a Book mix)

CD4 Previously Unreleased Recordings 1991 – 1993

  • 1. Concord (3 Comp75 id9 A1771 Aug 93A)
  • 2. Dark & Long(1struffid3A15512)
  • 3. Mmm…Skyscraper I Love You (A1765 Sky Version id4. Harmone6 COMP43)
  • 4. Mmm…Skyscraper I Love You (After sky id6 1551 2)
  • 5. Can You Feel Me? (from A4796)
  • 6. Birdstar (A1558 Nov 92B.1)
  • 7. Dirty Epic (Dirty Ambi Piano A1764 Oct 91)
  • 8. Spoonman (version1 A1559 Nov92)
  • 9. Organ (Eclipse version from A4796)
  • 10. Cowgirl (Alt Cowgirl C69 mix from A1564)

CD5 Live Jam Kyme Rd (previously unreleased live rehearsal recorded in the band’s home studio in 1993)

  • 1.Mmm…Skyscraper I Love You
  • 2.Improv 1
  • 3.Bigmouth
  • 4.Improv 2
  • 5.Big Meat Show
  • 6.Improv 3
  • 7.Spoonman


The band have also announced the following tour dates for 2015:

  • 5th March                            Bristol – Colston Hall
  • 6th March                            London – Hammersmith Apollo
  • 12th March                          Glasgow – Royal Concert Hall
  • 13th March                          Manchester – Albert Hall
  • 14th March                          Gateshead – The Sage
  • 19th March                          Paris – Casino de Paris
  • 20th March                          Brussels – Ancienne Belgique
  • 24th March                          Amsterdam – Paradiso
  • 25th March                          Amsterdam – Paradiso
  • 27th March                          Eindhoven – Klokgebouw (STRP)
  • 28th March                          Cologne – E-Werk

Underworld can be found online here: underworldlive.com. They can also be found on Twitter as @underworldlive and on Facebook.

All words by Simon Tucker, find his Louder Than War archive here and on Twitter.

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Raised by music obsessive parents on a diet of Ska, Bowie, Queen… and the Bay City Rollers. Discovered dance music and heavy metal at the same time making for a strange brew of taste. I do this for the love of an art form which welcomes all types and speaks to us all. Find me on twitter @simontucker1979.


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