40 Years of Underworld – The Innerspace Collection

Anyone who knows me knows that I’m a tremendous fan of the electronic duo Underworld.

At age 15, their album Dubnobasswithmyheadman was my very first exposure to the world beyond Top 40 radio pop, and its award-winning typographical packaging created by the band’s critically acclaimed Tomato design collective directly inspired my pursuit of a design degree and an 18-year career in the field.

Checking my latest stats, my Underworld collection now comprises 77 physical releases and artifacts, memorabilia, subway posters, books, prints, magazine articles, DVDs, VHS tapes, etc, as well as over 600 digital albums, EPs, mixes, concerts, and other materials – over 8100 tracks including concert videos. With new material being released every week, they’re showing no sign of slowing down, and they continue to expand my scope of musical appreciation with each new release.

Here is the physical portion of my collection to date. (For scale, the green print at the center is a subway poster from the UK measuring five feet in height.)

Underworld Physical Collection Complete 02-22-2020

Below is an itemized inventory of the physical collection. The 8100-track digital library is too large to post here but is itemized in the Innerspace Labs Workbook previously published in this journal.

Artist Title Format
Screen Gemz Teenage Teenage b/w I Just Can’t Stand Cars 7″ single (sleeve reproduction) 7″, Single
Freur Matters Of The Heart 7″
Freur Get Us Out Of Here LP, Album
Freur Look In The Back For Answers 12″
Freur Doot Doot CD
Freur Doot-Doot 7″, Pic
Freur Doot-Doot 12″
Freur Doot-Doot 12″
Freur Runaway (Dun Difrunt) 12″
Freur Doot-Doot LP, Album
Underworld Going Overground Melody Maker Magazine January 22, 1994 Magazine
Underworld Barbara Barbara, We Face a Shining Future LP, Album
Underworld Spikee / Dogman Go Woof 12″, Single
Underworld Beaucoup Fish 2xLP, Album
Underworld A Hundred Days Off 2xLP, Album
Underworld A Hundred Days Off 2xLP, Album
Underworld Born Slippy 12″, Single
Underworld Dark & Long 12″, RE
Underworld Two Months Off 12″
Underworld Second Toughest In The Infants 2xLP, Album
Underworld Rez / Cowgirl 12″
Underworld Stand Up 12″, Maxi
Underworld Glory! Glory! 12″, Single
Underworld Underneath The Radar Cassette
Underworld Underneath The Radar 7″, Single
Underworld Change The Weather LP, Album
Underworld Long Slow Slippy / Eventually But 12″, Ltd, S/Edition
Underworld Barking 2xLP, Album
Underworld Dubnobasswithmyheadman 5CD Box Set
Underworld Underneath The Radar LP, Album
Underworld Underneath The Radar LP, Album
Underworld Cowgirl / Rez 12″, Ltd, Whi
Underworld Pearl’s Girl 12″
Underworld Jumbo 12″, Single
Darren Emerson Global Underground 020: Singapore 2CD
Darren Emerson & Tim Deluxe Underwater, Episode 1 2CD
Underworld Videos 1993-97 Footwear Repairs By Craftsmen At Competitive Prices VHS
Underworld tomato: onyx pearls DVD
Underworld Underworld Live – Everything Everything DVD
Underworld Barking (Super Deluxe Edition 2CD+DVD+book+autographed print) 2CD+DVD Box Set
Underworld 1992-2002 2CD
Underworld Born Slippy CD
Underworld Change the Weather CD
Underworld Dinosaur Adventure 3D (US) CD
Underworld Dinosaur Adventure 3D (JAPAN) CD
Underworld Dubnobasswithmyheadman CD
Underworld A Hundred Days Off CD
Underworld King of Snake CD
Underworld Pearl’s Girl CD
Underworld Second Toughest in the Infants CD
Underworld Underneath the Radar CD
Underworld Underworld Singles Box Set 3CD Box Set
Underworld Limited Edition Barking Art Print (Hand numbered #64/650) Art Print
Underworld Dubnobasswithmyheadman A2 sized Promo Poster Poster
Underworld Dubnobasswithmyheadman Concert Tour Memorabilia Keyring Keyring
Underworld Dubnobasswithmyheadman T-Shirt (unofficial) T-Shirt
Underworld Dubnobasswithmyheadman Coffee Mug (unofficial) Coffee Mug
Underworld Dubnoboasswithmyheadman Custom Chromebook Skin and Keyboard Inlay Laptop Skin (Custom)
Underworld Everything Everything 150cm x 100cm UK Subway Poster Poster
Underworld Underworld Press Photo Photo
Underworld Rowla/Juanita 12″
Underworld Oblivion With Bells 2xLP, Album
Underworld Dubnobasswithmyheadman 2LP, Album
Underworld Second Toughest in the Infants Remastered Super Deluxe Edition 4CD Box Set
Underworld Beaucoup Fish Remastered Super Deluxe Edition 4CD Box Set
Underworld and Iggy Pop Teatime Dub Encounters LP, EP, Limited Edition, Clear
Underworld Drift Series 1 7CD+Blu-Ray DVD Box Set
Tomato mmm.. skyscraper i love you: A Typographical Journal of New York Art Book
Tomato Process: A Tomato Project Art Book
Eno • Hyde Someday World 2xLP, Album, S/Edition
Eno • Hyde Someday World 2xLP, Album, S/Edition
Eno • Hyde High Life 2xLP, Album
Eno • Hyde Someday World 12″ x 12″ Art Print Art Print
Eno • Hyde Brian Eno and Karl Hyde with Flowers in Vase Against White Background Postcard Postcard
Eno • Hyde Brian Eno and Karl Hyde on Stage Before a Concert Postcard
Karl Hyde Edgeland 2xLP, Album, 180
Karl Hyde Personal Live Photograph Photograph

Supplemental Note:

Following the acquisition of the final four Underworld multi-disc super-deluxe box sets for my archival project, I found that my collection had outgrown its space in my record room and I wanted a storage solution which would blend seamlessly with my vintage decor. I took careful measurements and trekked to my city’s antique mall and found a large antique wooden crate the exact dimensions (to the very inch!) that I was hoping to find.

It’s a perfect vintage solution to house my collection of nearly eighty Underworld releases! The sturdy wooden crate features weathered stamping for 120lbs of (Ben) Franklin brand sugar. Here it is in my home, fitted appropriately beneath a framed promotional print of my favorite album by the duo.

Ben Franklin Wooden Crate with Underworld Collection Inside 02-22-2020

Barbara, Barbara We Face a Shining Future

underworld in studioUnderworld portrait © Perou / Courtesy of the artist

For thirty-seven years, Rick Smith and Karl Hyde have been creating their own unique flavor of music, ranging from New Wave (with their first effort, a one-off single sold from the boot of Karl’s car as the Screen Gemz), to synth pop as Freur and Underworld Mk1, to progressive house experimentalism with their breakthrough self-reinvention on the album, Dubnobasswithmyheadman. From there Underworld’s sound grew infinitely richer and more adventurous, with everything from dancefloor anthems to ambient scores for film and the stage, to providing a soundtrack for the London 2012 Olympic Games.  

By the present day, their catalog boasts an impressive tally of 510 albums, EPs, live releases, collaborations, solo efforts, and singles. At 56 and 58 years old, the duo has been producing music longer than many of their listeners have been alive.  Releasing a new LP, the band’s first new recordings in six years would be a daunting task for any artist. But instead, as Ian Mathers notes in his review for PopMatters, “this might be the most relaxed, subtly confident record they’ve put out in Underworld Mk II’s history.”

True veterans of electronic music, Barbara is artful and inventive and easily the freshest-sounding album I’ve heard all year thus far.

Casual listeners hoping for an album of “Born Slippy”s be warned – this is instead an intimate and reflective album capturing the emotive spirit the band has past-exemplified in their more meditative and mid-tempo tracks and, as Mathers notes, “is more of a slow burn, a ‘Banstyle/Sappys Curry’ instead of a ‘Pearl’s Girl’.”

Slant Magazine revealed that “the album’s title came from the mouth of Smith’s dying father, being among the final words he uttered to his wife.” And Spin Magazine adds that the album’s “stirring background vocals over ever-turning arpeggiated synths are provided by Smith’s daughter, Esme, and Hyde’s daughter, Tyler, carrying the torch (almost literally) for future ravers.” This is what four-decade veterans of electronic music sound like in their most intimate and thoughtful moments.

The opener, “I Exhale” sets the pace for the record – steady and patient, with a subtle energy harkening back to the halcyon days of their electrifying floor-stomping live performances. Karl’s familiar spoken-word vocals are welcome here, a signature sound of the band’s indelibility.

The melodic hook that picks up and builds at the three-minute mark of “If Rah” and returns to close the track is elemental to the structure of countless progressive house classics. And the abstract and sometimes stream-of-consciousness lyrics which accompany it fuse the formula into that which is unmistakably Underworld.

The instrumental, “Santiago Cuatro” is an intimately organic and fragile departure from the tracks which preceded it, and it serves as the perfect transition to the magnificently radiant “Motorhome.” Relinquishing bass-heavy electronic percussion, the listener is left with a simple lyrical phrase accompanied by a curiously active meandering melody and delicately placed traditional piano tones. Brian Eno’s influence from their recent collaboration certainly shines here.

And true to form, the album closer, “Nylon Strung” is an empyrean ascent to unabashed bliss. With its recurring lyrical plea, “Carry me… open me up… I want to hold you… laughing…”, the duo invites us to share in their resounding joy.

The theme of the record approaches the shimmery, reflective territory Karl explored with an early edit of “Always Loved a Film”, (then dubbed “Silver Boots”) broadcast only once – on May 19th 2006 from the band’s Lemonworld Studio.  The track has long been a stand-out favorite with its four on the floor beats delicately balanced by more complex and thoughtful elements which reveal themselves over the eleven minutes of the song.  

And ever-present are Karl’s trademark vocals – stripped bare of effects and showcasing curious conversational fragments expertly-described by Jon Dennis (of the Guardian) as “affecting, fractured evocations of the disorientations of modern urban life.” Karl speaks, “Maggie’s a doll and I’m a big sister / She’s a little girl and I’m a little princess / These are the weeds that live in the cracks / and these are the rails at the edge of the world.” The phrases are puzzling and disconnected but function beautifully in an abstract sort of elegance. This is what Underworld does best – and precisely what they’ve achieved with their wonderful new record.

Look in the Back for Answers

Anyone who’s met me knows that I’m a big fan of Underworld. I’ve got 227 of their albums, singles and shows between the various incarnations of UW/Freur/Screen Gemz and Lemon Interupt, and I’m always looking for more.

For the uninitiated, Rick and Karl have been making music together in one form or another since 1979. They are best known for the club track “Born Slippy Nuxx” from the movie, Trainspotting. (This site’s name is actually lifted from the song’s lyrics.)

Well part of Underworld’s humble beginnings was the Welsh synth pop band, Freur. Their only hit was an odd track called, “Doot Doot.”

I was absolutely blown away when “Doot Doot” resurfaced out of nowhere after twenty years, appearing in the Palm Pre cell phone commercial last summer.


I apologize – that is the creepiest girl on the planet.

While I have Freur’s extended discography and videography in digital format, I’ve been fortunate to acquire several of their original LPs as well.

Freur - Doot Doot 12in promo“Doot Doot” 12″ single

Freur - Doot Doot album“Doot Doot” album

Freur - Doot Doot picture disc“Doot Doot” 7″ picture disc

Freur - Runaway (Dun Difrunt)“Runaway (Dun Difrunt)” single

Freur - Matters of the Heart 7"“Matters of the Heart” 7″ single

Today I ventured into both Record Theater stores in the Buffalo area. I wasn’t in the first shop for 60 seconds when I found this!

Freur - Look in the Back for Answers“Look in the Back for Answers” single

It was particularly surprising because Freur LPs don’t turn up in shops in the states very often, and when they do 90% of them are copies of “Doot Doot.”

The single also includes one of my favorite Freur rarities, “Hey Ho Away We Go.” As an added bonus it ends with “Uncle Jeof,” a collection of taped travelogue and jams from their European tour.

I’m still looking for two Freur treasures. Get Us Out of Here was their second and final LP, released only in the Netherlands. It included “Look in the Back for Answers” and a few other fan favorites. The other item is their soundtrack to the movie, Transmutations, aka Underworld – the Clive Barker film from which the group would later take their name.  This soundtrack is not commercially available but bootlegs are known to exist.

Copies of Get Us Out of Here can easily be picked up for around $15, so long as you’re willing to pay shipping from Lithuania, Denmark, Germany or France.

While in the shop I took note of a number of new releases which had escaped my radar these past few months, including the double-LP collaboration between the Orb and David Gilmour titled Metallic Spheres.  Now I’ve got an evening’s worth of albums to research!