Saturday 22 July 2017

'Lager' than life techno honchos twist the right knobs

For a scene that was supposedly dead in the water, club culture has looked suspiciously healthy of late. On the heels of well received comebacks by The Chemical Brothers and Daft Punk, the latest titans of 1990s techno to threaten a revival are Underworld, the UK duo best known for the Trainspotting-mandated hit 'Born Slippy'.

It's been 12 years since Born Slippy and Karl Hyde; Underworld's live-wire vocalist, recently celebrated his 50th birthday. Time has not diminished his showman's zeal. Playing the first of two sell out nights at Tripod, he saunters from the wings in a shiny silver cape, the sort of bling folly you might find rummaging through Liberace's rubbish bin.

Sadly, though, that's where the showmanship initially ends. Crouched over a vast mixing desk, beat-master Rick Smith, with an assistant riding shot-gun, flicks switches and triggers samples with all the exuberance of a computer programmer.

Still, Underworld have a cast-iron trove of smashes to call upon. There is, of course, 'Born Slippy', which, with its 'lager, lager, lager' refrain has entered the lexicon of popular culture. Yet they choose to open with a relative obscurity: 'Luetin', from their underrated 2002 album 'A Hundred Days Off'. Later, Hyde, stepping out from behind the mixing desk, introduces a note of a sorely-required urgency with 'REZ/Cowgirl', a dance-floor hit from 1993.

For new single, 'Crocodile', meanwhile he straps on a guitar and sings in what might sound like a heartfelt croon were it not for the apocalyptic grooves crashing over his head.

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