Friday, April 30, 2021

"Underneath the Radar" by Underworld

Song#:  3479
Date:  04/16/1988
Debut:  88
Peak:  74
Weeks:  8
Genre:  Alternative Rock, Synth Rock

Pop Bits:  This UK band first began to develop in 1975 with musicians Karl Hyde and Rick Smith. Initially known as The Screen Gemz, the pair later evolved into the new wave/synthpop quartet Freur. The band got signed to CBS Records in 1983 and released the single "Doot-Doot." It got to #57 in the UK while charting in a few other countries. A debut album by the same name sold a few copies so CBS ordered a second LP. However, after three new singles failed, which resulted in the limited released of their 1986 second album, the band split. Hyde and Smith then formed Underworld with two other musicians. They were signed to Sire Records in the US and recorded a debut album titled Underneath the Radar with producer Rupert Hine. This title-track single was released and it was able to reach the Pop chart for a couple of months. The album would manage to peak at #139. While the band didn't pick up a sizable audience in the US, they did very well in Australia. This single made it to #5 with the album reaching #32. It seems the song was released in the UK, but it did not chart and most likely because of that, the album was not released there.

ReduxReview:  You may be thinking - hey, wasn't this an electro/techno/house band? If so, you are correct. Hyde and Smith would revamp Underworld's sound in the 90s. They would become successful and influential and would even score a major #2 UK hit with 1996's "Born Slippy .NUXX," which became popular after its use in the hit film Trainspotting. However, the group's first two albums were more in the alt rock/synthpop/funk vein. This charging single tried to establish the band, but it didn't fare well in the US. In the long run, that may have been a good thing as who knows if they would have developed into the Underground most folks know today. I like this track, but it took a few listens for me to hook into it. I don't think it was exactly right for US pop radio at the time. It was a little too brash and intense. The album had a couple of bright spots including the urgent "I Need a Doctor," which had shades of earlier 80s synthpop. Overall the LP was nearly there. It had some nice ideas and, of course, excellent production from Rupert Hine. The main problem was that I think it came along a few years too late. It sounded more early 80s than '88.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) Although the promotion came a few months too late, this song was used in the opening scenes of the fifth season opener of Miami Vice. The show, known for its use/promotion of new music, was in its final season and although the episode had been filmed earlier in the year, it didn't air until November of '88. By that time, Underworld's single and album had long been off the charts and the band was unable to capitalize on the song's appearance.  2) At the beginning of the song, there are beeps heard that sound like Morse code. Well, it is Morse code. When translated it says "think globally, act locally." The phrase is basically a call to take care of the planet and to do so you need to start by doing and promoting things in your own area. The concept seems to have first been brought about by Scottish town planner Patrick Geddes in his 1915 book Cities of Evolution. The actual phrase came about decades later in the 70s, although its true origin is in dispute with several people claiming to have used it first. The phrase has also gone on to have applications in business (as an ad-based strategy) and in mathematics (an off-beat way to describe the structure of an object).


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