Sign on the Dotted Void

Peppy Songs With Hooks and Beats—the New Underground Craze!

The band that might still escape a fate worse than Rhino is Underworld. A Hundred Days Off boils down the band's rave soup to a thick emulsion of joy and repetition, bringing "I Feel Love" and Steve Reich together for the combination that gets mooted in criticism once a week but rarely shows up. The album moves around the fabulously functional, instantly ecstatic "Two Months Off." Working a tense, two-chord ping-pong and one dominant lyric— "You bring light"— "Two Months Off" is the Paradise Garage revived, or at least reintroduced in a very enthusiastic way. When a conga and cowbell break enter after seven minutes, it feels awfully generous: We could have gone on forever without it. Like Autechre, a group with a very different take on physical pleasure, Underworld's dominant move is the long fade and glacial shift from idea to idea. A Hundred Days Off moves without obstruction through extended parsings of simple ideas, tactile delight following from the quality and intensity of each sound. This is the umpteenth draft of an idea that has lost none of its power for the band. You get the feeling Underworld will be just fine when they end up on their own label some day.

Underworld are awfully generous.
photo: Hamish Brown
Underworld are awfully generous.

Details

Soul Hooligan
Music Like Dirt
Maverick

Lo Fidelity Allstars
Don't Be Afraid of Love
Columbia

Underworld
A Hundred Days Off
V2

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There's nothing new about corporations failing as listeners or advocates, but the speed and force of the fashion system is definitely invoking its own failure when perfectly good candy gets tossed to the side of the road. Aren't cheap thrills supposed to be pop's default position? Or is that just another plank in the bonfire now?

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