I'll be honest and say that Underworld was one of the first electronic groups that really helped to actually get me more into electronic music. Back in the day, I picked up a little CD called Dubnobasswithmyheadman that was really unlike anything I had heard at the time. Whereas most of the electronic music I listened to at the time completely eschewed any vocals (except for random samples), Underworld seemed to embrace vocals and even make them a major part of the music. Through the years, I followed them fairly closely, even though my favorite album of theirs is still their early Second Toughest In The Infants.
And now, they've been together (officially - more on that in a second) for 10 years and they're putting out a collection of singles that includes most of their big-name tracks as well as some obscure ones. Busting through this 2 discs and over 2 and a half hours of music really takes me back in the day, and although the group hasn't quite kept breaking boundaries with their releases, they haven't fallen off nearly as much as some of their contemporaries. Heck, even their newest track represented on this release ("Two Months Off," from A Hundred Days Off) still draws the listener into a trance, which is one of the best qualities of the group over the years.
I guess I should start from the beginning, and that's the part of this release that's going to appeal to the fans of the group who have more than just one or two albums. In addition to "Mmm Skyscraper, I Love You," "Dirty Epic," and "Cowgirl" from Dubnobasswithmyheadman, the group has included some earlier b-side material as well. "Bigmouth" opens the collection and is probably the least-interesting of the bunch, sounding dated with a somewhat cheesy horn sample (along with a few minor, but still intact production gaffes), while "Dirty" (a remix of "Dirty Epic") is a nice inclusion, as well as the absolutely kick-ass "Rez" and "Spikee." Probably the best inclusion of the bunch is the thumping 11-minute Dark Train remix of "Dark And Long" that closes out the first disc with a pummeling kick drum and cool washes of synths. Fortunately, the group doesn't go back in time past 1992, when they released albums like Under The Radar and sounded like a poor knockoff of Depeche Mode.
As a somewhat obsessive Underworld collector back in the day, there are other tracks that I would have liked to hear added to the collection (like the 26-minute epic "Things In A Book), but they were most likely cut for time reasons. With the amount of work that Underworld did in their first 3 years of existence with Darren Emerson, they could probably fill 3 or 4 discs alone. Alas, the second disc of this collection continues with songs that will be more familiar to most listeners, including "Pearls Girl" from the aforementioned Second Toughest In The Infants and 4 different tracks from Beaucoup Fish. There's also everyone's favorite, "Born Slippy Nuxx," which made mix CDs from here to Japan and really put the group on the radar after the release of the film Trainspotting.
Filling out the rest of the disc is one track from their most recent disc and the slightly-older "8 Ball" (from the soundtrack to The Beach), which is really the only more-exclusive inclusion on the second disc. In the end, there is a whole slew of tracks and most of them are picked fairly well. As with any compilation, different fans of the group are going to have different opinions on it (my own is that it doesn't contain _quite_ enough exclusive stuff or enough from Second Toughest), but in the end it should please most fans of the groups. With 16 tracks and well over 150 minutes of music, it's hard to complain about the amount of music that you get on the release. If you already own most of their material, you might want to spend your time hunting down those last few things you don't have, but if you're on the edge of wanting to hear more but not quite sure where you should go next, this is a nice way to hear a wide range of work.