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.
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