Friday, August 31, 2007

Song of the Day - Underworld: "Crocodile"

Remember back in the late 90's when "Electronica" was supposed to be the next big thing in music? Bands like The Prodigy and The Chemical Brothers seemed to be everywhere you looked and many mainstream rock acts (David Bowie and U2, among others) collaborated with producers who infused their sound with influences from the European dance club scene. For about a two year span the conventional wisdom among rock critics was that this scene was going to take over America and change the face of popular music. Of course, that never happened and before you knew it most of these artists retreated back to the club scene that made them famous in the first place.

London-based trio Underworld (now a duo) fit into this familiar narrative nicely. Once considered a major force in pop music after the critical and commercial success of the single "Born Slippy" (thanks to it being featured on the enormously popular Trainspotting soundtrack), Underworld never again duplicated the commercial appeal of that single. With the hype machine in full effect, the 1998 release of their third album Beaucoup Fish failed to meet the lofty commercial expectations placed upon it, despite the positive reception it received from most critics. Since then Karl Hyde and Rick Pierce have been doing what they do best; playing live and immersing themselves in the club culture that never abandoned them.

Their newest single, "Crocodile", is an indication that maybe their latest effort, Oblivion With Bells (release date: sometime in October) is a back-to-basics effort reminiscent of their earlier work. Anchored by a deep techno backbeat circa the days of "Dark and Long" and "Mmm Skyscraper I Love You," this song has everything fans of Underworld love. There's sparkling synth loops in the background, multi-layered effects that amplify the celestial tone of Karl Hyde's vocals and neat little keyboard solo that sounds straight out of the New Order greatest hits catalog. "Crocodile" is fun, but not disposable; pulsating, but not trancey and it sounds like it could become another crowd favorite amongst the many club anthems the band plays during their legendary live shows. I can't wait to see how they pull it off on stage.

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