Album review: Underworld & Iggy Pop

Iggy Pop and Underworld will be forever joined at the figurative hip thanks to the Trainsporting soundtrack. Iggy’s ‘Lust for Life’ opened the film and set the riotous tone for what was to follow; ‘Born Slippy’ was the epic comedown that smothered the smackhead prat-falling beneath snow-drifts of melancholy.

So it was probably with a sense of predestination that Rick Smith and Karl Hyde payed an impromptu call to Pop’s London hotel suite last year, a mobile studio in tow, and suggested they collaborate. Iggy, by every account, was surprised but amenable and, in short order they had started work on Teatime Dub Encounters, the jokey title somewhat underselling the depth of emotion both sides invest in the project.

Aged 71, Pop is no longer the demon punk of yore and his lyrics — spoken word verses, really — creak with nostalgia. However, Underworld know how to utilise his ennui, especially on the seven minute plus opening track, ‘Bells and Circles’. Against a torrid beat that could have come straight from 1994’s dubnobasswithmyheadman, Pop waxes about the days you could smoke on airplanes or better yet, snort cocaine in plain sight while flirting with a cabin crew (also smoking).

The song is glorious and curmudgeonly — but bears a more than passing resemblance to ‘Losing My Edge’, LCD Soundsystem’s chronicling of what happens when the times change and you stay the same.

The same perspective informs ‘Trapped’, a gothic rumbler where Pop sounds like a creepy approximation of late-period David Bowie. “No drug, no drug… no drink’s gonna help me no more,” he shouts, as Smith’s daughter Esme chimes in with backing vocals.

As anyone force to endure the terrible Lou Reed/Metallica collaboration, Lulu, will attest music legends coming together across the genre divide don’t always strike gold. That’s not the case here as both sides rise to the occasion with a record that speaks to their respective strengths and pulses with late-career vulnerability and humanity.

Ed Power


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