Having celebrated the 20th anniversary of their debut album as a trio by reissuing Dubnobasswithmyheadman, Underworld have given Second Toughest in the Infants the same treatment. Chronicling their smashing of the mainstream with the record which has since earned the well-deserved classic status, alongside a host of extra treats.
If their first album was a signal of their intent after Darren Emerson had joined the band, then Second Toughest in the Infants is a full-scale attack on the British dance scene. Opening with the 16-minute schizophrenic whirlwind of ‘Junita : Kiteless : To Dream of Love’, the trio dip in and out of different genres, encapsulating a collective at the peak of their powers.
While drifting from melancholy to euphoria via a dreamlike haze, the centrepiece of the album is undoubtedly ‘Pearl’s Girl’, initially released as the lead single in 1996. “Rioja, Rioja, Reverend Al Green, deep blue Morocco, the water on stone, the water on concrete, the water on sand, the water on fire, smoke, the wind, the salt, the bride boat coming,” Karl Hyde’s repetitive, echoed stream of conciousness perfectly matching the beats, driving home Underworld’s rave manifesto.
With the second disc containing a host of singles, b-sides and remixes – such as the hypnotic groove of ‘Oich Oich’ – and a third made up of previously unreleased material. This reissue only enforces the fact that Underworld have set the standard for which British dance music has rarely reached since.
Of course things were to truly explode of the group with the release of Trainspotting and the use of ‘Born Slippy. NUXX’ – originally a 1995 b-side – in the film’s climactic scene. And the final CD is solely dedicated to the evolution of the tune which has since been named the fourth best dance track of all time.
Underworld are likely to be always known for ‘Born Slippy. NUXX’, and being known for a masterpiece is no bad thing, but Second Toughest in the Infants remains a timely reminder they have produced some of the most exciting dance music ever.