Teatime Dub Encounters
At first you might think of The Orb and David Gilmour collaborating, and wonder if this is just another one of those odd-but-okay scenarios – it doesn’t take too long to put it together though, the original Trainspotting soundtrack was a classic, plenty of great music – Eno, Blur, Lou Reed – but it was bookending tracks by Iggy Pop (‘Lust for Life’) and Underworld (‘Born Slippy’) that people walked away with; scene-stealers – iconic.
So, the aim for the movie’s sequel was to have these flagship soundtrack icons collaborate. Borne of those sessions is this EP; 27 minutes across four lengthy tracks, featuring Mr. Pop doing his wonderfully-bonkers spoken word nonsenses over the crunching, pulsing, surging, always-exciting Underworld electronica grooves.
The renegade snares of the opener, Bells & Circles, sets the musical tone, Iggy enters talking this and that of having wings and how he “wouldn’t do anything beautiful or transcendent, no”, rather he’d get his “finger into anything” that he wanted. He cusses out not being able to smoke on aeroplanes and reminisces about the golden days of air travel. Stick with it, this is not (just) a baby-boomer off his meds, it all heads towards an ecstatic chorus; great to hear Pop sounding not just more like himself than he has in a while, but also sounding like actual pop – kooky but hooky, catchy music.
The huge pulse behind Trapped is video-game cool, and though, again, you can call out Ig for shitting on those younger – mocking a person for getting trapped behind a mortgage in the song’s lyrics, you could also go deeper, think back to the aims of a Trainspotting 2 collaboration and think that the Johnny trapped in this lyric is the character from Lust for Life. “Here comes Johnny, yeah” – but the liquor and drugs have sent him towards a prison of ditch-your-dreams domestic bliss. Is that reading too much into it? Maybe. But there is a refrain in this possible sequel-song that clearly says, “no drug, no drink’s gonna help me no more”. The character is even named as Johnny by the way.
More importantly though, was it ever wise to analyse the mostly trite lyrics of Iggy Pop?
I’m only pointing out that the song Trapped could show a character-link because Pitchfork tried really hard to virtue-signal their way through a review of this EP, calling out Ig’s generational grumpiness whenever they could. (Their reading is incorrect).
Fuck that noise. What’s wonderful here is the feel and flow of this music. It’s Underworld’s show. Iggy is just doing his cameo-best – and it’s fun and often rather glorious. Also, the dead-behind-the-eyes sleepwalk that was his shitty album with Josh Homme means that anything new – that actually lives – featuring Iggy Pop is a huge bonus.
We can’t expect that much more from him. But the four songs here really soar.
I’ll See Big has Iggy telling a slow-crawl ballad of memoir. Again, the dreamlike musical backing is the actual highlight. Well, that and just the tone of Iggy’s spoken word, his voice so cool to hear, so calming. This is music to waft away with.
The closer, Get Your Shirt, is Underworld doing its Big Beat best – reminding that they were also contemporaries of The Crystal Method, The Chemical Brothers, Propellerheads, Groove Armada and the like, they just dreamed bigger and moved wider, thought deeper. Get Your Shirt is a big, dumb anthem, a happy album/EP closer.
Teatime Dub Encounters is by no means a classic. But it’s welcome. A great reminder of Underworld’s charms and far-from-over journey. A timely reminder that Iggy Pop is more than just a cliché – and there’s a mercurial energy driving his best, weirdest work.
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