Underworld + Iggy Pop: Teatime Dub Encounters
- Bells + Circles
- I’ll See Big
- Get Your Shirt
Will wonders ever cease? When I had reviewed “Post Pop Depression” not two months ago, talk in the comments drifted to this EP and I’ve already owned it for over a month. When I saw it in the bins of Wax N’ Facts on my last trip there, it was a no-brainer. I’d finally begun to venture into the modern era of Underworld in the last couple of years, but anything Iggy Pop did I have an interest in hearing. Particularly when he’s so far out of his comfort zone through collaborating with the 800 lb. gorillas of stadium electronica.
Being familiar with the Underworld M.O., I had expected longish expanses of techno dub sound punctuated by the joker in the deck; Iggy Pop. “Bells + Circles” dished out exactly that, but what I could not have expected was how amusing and even cogent Iggy was in that context. The cut began with a widescreen slab of a drumloop unfolding like a flower emerging from the soil and into the sunlight as the EQ carried the sound from muddy to vibrant. Iggy soon made his presence felt as he hijacked the track to take him far from its predetermined destination.
Listening to him free associate from tales of air travel’s golden age in the 70s to the finer points of picking up stewardesses, he seized upon the freedom to smoke on an airplane in that bygone era to underscore how restrictive everything feels to him these days. When he concludes the tracks by proclaiming that “it’s over for the liberal democracies” and even “there will be no revolution… and that’s why it won’t be televised,” he’d just turned the neat trick of making the personal political.
“Trapped” stuttered repetitively like a vintage Suicide track with a spy theme urgency as Iggy gave a glimpse inside as he decried the restrictions of domesticity via the idea of a mortgage posited as an anathema to his freewheeling ways. Tellingly, he actually says “there goes the little boy inside.” I would imagine that the little boy is still pulling all of the levers inside Iggy.
The tempos lapsed for the ambient and sunny vibe of “I’ll See Big” as Iggy ruminated shaggily on the nature of the friendships in his life over a calm and meditative music bed. He recounted the gist of his relationship with The Stooges and obliquely referred to the demanding nature of his friendship with David Bowie. And finally, “Get Your Shirt” was an actual case of Iggy singing here instead of providing the voice overs for Smith and Hyde to cut rhythmically into the tracks. The glamrok stomp found pop examining his shirt, or lack thereof, as the most direct sort of metaphor imaginable. Iggy was joined here by Esme Brownyn-Smith; Rick’s daughter who has her sights on being a soprano once she finishes her post-Baccalaureate vocal studies. Her mellifluous trilling provided delightful contrast with the lived in leather that Pop provided vocally. Her singing was a delight throughout the EP, actually.
The EP came to fruition when Underworld and Pop were in England working on the soundtrack to T2 Trainspotting. Iggy offered to meet up at his hotel and Smith booked his own room at The Savoy and built a studio there as he was determined to mix it up with Pop musically. Can you blame him? Thought put on the spot, Pop has instinctually been making records for nearly 50 years, so of course he went with it. The resulting EP was a perfectly named collaboration that hit a sweet spot at 27:30 in length. Enough to quench a thirst you didn’t know you had and yet sufficient to keep you coming back for more.
– 30 –
Teatime Dub Encounters is some of the best music I’ve heard this year. Monk, are we really discussing music released in 2018?
Bells + Circles, for all its modern Post Techno tropes, threw me back to the early 80s. It’s all about the repetitive, multilayered, rhythms. Rick Smith really found the genius for this one!
Echorich – Well we enjoyed it, unlike Jordan and negative1ne. One man’s meat is another’s tofu, I guess. I was just thrilled that I bought it so quickly. There’s hope for me yet!
Honestly I feel like Underworld’s opus is Dubnobasswithmyheadman. Second Toughest In The Infants, the “commercial” breakthrough, is a better title than album for me.
Odd pairing. One of the worst pieces of music I have heard from Underworld.
Karl and his lyrics fit right in. Iggy just feels wrong. Same with the New Order song he did.
Iggy by himself is another subject.
I have collected UWMK2 since the start and seen them live several times. Outstanding act that have run out of ideas.
They created the benchmark of that techno era with the first album ( get the 5 disc box set well worth it ) and kept going in new directions of sound and art with LPs and EPs until the last 2-3 albums. Just on repeat.
Maybe too many cinema scores and Olympics have dulled them.
Still one of my favourite bands though.
totally agree with everything you said.
i can’t stand current underworld.
glad that mr monk can enjoy,
at least someone can.
they have however started a new project,
that’s more 90’s acid house, the drift series.
there are 2 parts out, and more on the way,
they are decent, but not great.
you may want to check that out.
Jordan – Since I am more of a Freur fan, I am perhaps not as critical as some Underworld MK II fans who had the powerful relationship with that band in the 90s that I had with Freur in the 80s. Only much bigger. Hell, I only moved onto Undwerworld MK I in the late 90s out of boredom! This EP sounded fun to me. Minor Iggy, whose last album was world class, but still a fun and playful quickie project. I also LOVED Karl’s album with Eno [and I still need the second one that came out too quickly for me].
I’m rather limited on my exploration of UWMk2, having only been spurred to investigate them following Karl’s two albums with Brian “The God” Eno. This is a very different use of Iggy than I’m used to as well; while I’m unsure that a whole album of stuff like “Bells and Circles” would sit well with me, that track (and the others I checked out) were enjoyable enough to, as you say, “leave me wanting more.” Good to see Iggy “pop” out of his comfort zone. #seewhatididthere
chasinvictoria – Sure enough and I did, Boy Wonder… begorrah!
I love Iggy and am indifferent to Underworld and I found this so much more fun than I expected it to be. Between this and “Paraguay” on Post Pop Depression I would be on board for a pure extemporaneous spoken-word Iggy Pop record.
Zachary Hoskins – Welcome to the comments! You said a mouthful! If “Post-Pop Depression was his “last rock album,” I say bring on the Ig’s spoken word career! Don’t let Henry Rollins be the the only bulked up, shirtless punk rocker to work that action!
Glad you liked this one – I have pretty high standards for UW but even I was pretty surprised at how well this fly-by-night collaborations worked out. “Get Your Shirt” has been one of my favorite tracks of the year. It really gets in my head. UW have been up to some interesting things lately..
critterjams – Releases like this were why the EP format existed. There’s a beauty in brevity. If your songs are 7:30 then maybe you don’t need eight of them. If you’re going to buttonhole Iggy Pop to make some music together, then make your point and get it done quickly. He’s so not about tedious reworking.