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Underworld / Second Toughest in the Infants / 2CD deluxe edition

Underworld / Second Toughest in the Infants / 2CD deluxe edition

Guest SDE reviewer Nico Pleimling  says the two-CD deluxe edition of Underworld’s classic album Second Toughest in the Infants has much to recommend it, but will it completely satisfy the hardcore fan?

Following the re-release of their groundbreaking album dubnobasswithmyheadman in different formats back in October 2014 and prior to unleashing their newest outing Barbara Barbara, we face a shining future this March, Underworld issued the remastered version of Second Toughest in the Infants at the end of last year in various formats (CD/double vinyl/2CD deluxe/4CD super deluxe) through Universal Music Catalogue.

Along with The Prodigy’s Music for the Jilted Generation, Orbital’s In Sides, Leftfield’s Leftism and The Chemical Brothers’ Dig Your Own Hole, this second outing of Underworld Mk2 is one of the best electronic music albums of the mid-Nineties. Listening to it almost 20 years later, Second Toughest in the Infants still sounds as fresh as in 1996 when it was first commercially released. The multi-layered tracks retain the same magic and reveal different facets upon every listen. The perfect pairing of man and machine earns the listener’s rapt attention by allowing as much space to hard dance beats as to melodic elements and delightfully nagging sounds, all glued together by Karl Hyde’s vocals and well-constructed arrangements.

The curious name of the disc derives from a comment made by Rick Smith’s then six-year-old nephew, when asked on his progress at infant school. Most impressive is the album opener Juanita: Kiteless: To Dream of Love, a three-part track stretching over 16 minutes, which sets the tone for an album that is noticeably darker than dubnobasswithmyheadman. The eight tracks offer an undulating emotional journey matching dance-floor-oriented tunes with more mellow, introspective compositions.

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Whereas the super deluxe version of its predecessor featured five discs for £35, Second Toughest in the Infants has only four CDs for £60. On the band’s website they cite the extra cost of producing the accompanying book with this reissue as the reason for the significantly higher price point. Die-hard fans and/or music lovers with a bulging wallet may not hesitate to pay the premium for an album that was a critical success as well as a commercial hit in 1996 and reached the Top Ten in the UK following its release. For those with a more limited budget, though, the two-CD deluxe edition will have to suffice.

Besides the eight carefully remastered tracks featured on the original album – seven of which exceed six-and-a-half minutes – offering a clearer sound and punchier bass than the original release, the two-CD version offers ten extra tracks on disc two. These include selected B-sides, alternate versions and previously unreleased material from the super deluxe edition, with Underworld’s trademark party classic Born Slippy (Nuxx) – featured in Danny Boyle’s massively successful film adaptation of Irvine Welsh’s Trainspotting – providing the grand finale.

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Second Toughest in the Infants 2CD packaging (click to enlarge)

The second disc kicks off with the original instrumental version of this track, before lining up a few fine B-sides, starting with Cherry Pie, an early, rather spaced-out version of the album’s fierce and biting Rowla. Oich Oich uses a lot of dub elements and some eerie sounds on top of a chilled groove. The following tracks Puppies and Mosaic take on a hypnotic, minimalist approach, whereas Deep Arch builds up to yet another of those archetypical multilayered Underworld beasts. Alternate versions of album tracks with Confusion the Waitress (She Said), Rowla A1806 and Pearls V2 are also included.

Overall, this two-disc edition of Second Toughest in the Infants certainly gives a deeper insight into the most creatively fruitful phase to date of the (then) trio, consisting of Karl Hyde, Rick Smith and Darren Emerson. However, because it mostly includes previously released bonus material that basically offers only the additional benefit of remastering, hardcore fans who bought the original CD or vinyl releases in the 1990s may still be left hungry for more. And it’s fair to say that the true pearls of the reissue are to be found on the super deluxe version, with the final disc exhaustively retracing the evolution of Underworld’s epic dance hit Born Slippy via seven studio and live versions.

A must-have for completists, then, but casual listeners must decide whether to content themselves with the single or double-CD editions of this classic album or sit tight in the hope that the price of the super deluxe one day drops to a less prohibitive level.

Second Toughest in the Infants is out now.


Review by Nico Pleimling for SDE.

underworld_stiti

4CD super deluxe edition

secondtoughest_2CD

2CD deluxe edition

second_vinyl

2LP Vinyl

track_listing

underworld_stiti

4CD Super Deluxe Edition

CD1:

  • 1.         Juanita: Kiteless: To Dream Of Love
  • 2.         Banstyle / Sappys Curry
  • 3.         Confusion the Waitress
  • 4.         Rowla
  • 5.         Pearl’s Girl
  • 6.         Air Towel
  • 7.         Blueski
  • 8.         Stagger

CD2: singles, B sides, remixes

  • 1.         Cherry Pie
  • 2.         Oich Oich
  • 3.         Puppies
  • 4.         Mosaic
  • 5.         Deep Arch
  • 6.         Pearl’s Girl (Tin There)
  • 7.         Pearl’s Girl (14996 Version)
  • 8.         Born Slippy (Original Instrumental Version)
  • 9.         Born Slippy.Nuxx (Deep Pan)

CD3: previously unreleased material

  • 1.         Bug
  • 2.         Confusion The Waitress (She Said)
  • 3.         D+B Thing
  • 4.         D’Arbly St
  • 5.         4 Crowns
  • 6.         Rowla A1806
  • 7.         Bing Here
  • 8.         Techno Thang
  • 9.         Pearls Ver2
  • 10.       Bloody 1

CD4: Born Slippy (Nuxx) – previously unreleased demos, live recordings, mixes

  • 1.         Nuxx A1796
  • 2.         Nuxx A2221 UW live (2 sets) Leicester M Dog 94
  • 3.         Nuxx A4712 Live @ Zap club Brighton Feb94
  • 4.         Nuxx A4733 UW live Amsterdam Apr94
  • 5.         Nuxx Liquid Room 94 A2254 UW Live Liquid Room 2 Tokyo
  • 6.         Nuxx from A1825
  • 7.         Born Slippy (Nuxx)

secondtoughest_2CD

2CD Deluxe

CD1:

  • 1.         Juanita: Kiteless: To Dream Of Love
  • 2.         Banstyle / Sappys Curry
  • 3.         Confusion the Waitress
  • 4.         Rowla
  • 5.         Pearl’s Girl
  • 6.         Air Towel
  • 7.         Blueski
  • 8.         Stagger

CD2:

  • 1.         Born Slippy (Original Instrumental Version)
  • 2.         Cherry Pie
  • 3.         Oich Oich
  • 4.         Puppies
  • 5.         Mosaic
  • 6.         Deep Arch
  • 7.         Confusion The Waitress (She Said)
  • 8.         Rowla A1806
  • 9.         Pearls Ver2
  • 10.       Born Slippy (Nuxx)

second_vinyl

2LP Vinyl

1. Juanita: Kiteless: To Dream Of Love
2. Banstyle / Sappys Curry
3. Confusion the Waitress
4. Rowla
5. Pearl’s Girl
6. Air Towel
7. Blueski
8. Stagger

pre-order

Underworld / Second Toughest in the Infants / 4CD super deluxe

4CD super deluxe edition

secondtoughest_2CD

2CD deluxe edition

second_vinyl

2LP Vinyl

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13 responses to Underworld / Second Toughest in the Infants / 2CD deluxe edition

  1. bertielego says:

    I highly recommend the 4-disc version.
    The two CDs of previously unreleased material are worth spending the money.
    (BTW, I bought the Japanese 4-disc set, on SHM-CD format).

  2. bertielego says:

    The second disc of the 2-disc version is an intelligent choice of tracks, as it compiles the best tracks from discs 2, 3 and 4 from the 4-disc SDE version.

    The recent 2-disc version of Simple Minds’ Once Upon A Time should have been approached the same way!…

  3. William says:

    Thanks to a tip off on this site I managed to get the four disc version for £27.99 delivered from HMV. It is a thing of beauty and sounds great. However I do prefer Dubnobasswithmyheadman although I thought this was a four disc version also and not five disc as stated in the article.
    Good write up by the way.

  4. darren says:

    Or just go to Spotify to listen first :)

  5. Charles Hodgson says:

    Great review and very helpful. Will continue to hold out in hope of a cheaper Super Deluxe…

  6. Michael59 says:

    are there all original era remixes of ‘born slippy’ included or are a few missing? does anybody know which remixes were released back in the 1990s?

  7. Gregory. says:

    No blu-ray audio version for this reissue unlike Dubnobass…
    I assume that the latter didn’t sell much so they probably decided not to repeat this with Second Toughest…
    What is odd though is that there is no hi-res digital version available anywhere…

  8. Elliot says:

    I believe these are all the mixes of Born Slippy from the 90s singles not included on the super deluxe edition:

    Born Slippy .TELEMATIC (From the original 1995 single)
    Born Slippy .NUXX (Darren Price Mix) (Born Slippy .NUXX 1996 single)
    Born Slippy .NUXX (Darren Price Remix) (Born Slippy .NUXX 1996 single)
    Born Slippy .NUXX (Short) (Born Slippy .NUXX 1996 single)
    Born Slippy .NUXX (Radio Edit) (Born Slippy 1996 promo singles)

  9. Annoyed says:

    The Telematic mix is quite possibly the greatest track they ever recorded. How that got left off in place of some of the ones that didn’t – ESPECIALLY on the super deluxe version – is baffling in the extreme.

    Also, for the truly picky/insane – there are actually two versions of the original mix. One is about 30 seconds longer than the other, and they’re not “remixed” as such, but one does have a slightly different tone to it. I don’t remember positively which is which at this moment, but I believe the longer one was the second one released (on one of the ’96 Pearls Girl UK CD singles.)

  10. Michael59 says:

    now running time confusion sets in: i found the following running times and mixes and i am still not quite sure how many mixes there were:

    9:39 > .TELEMATIC
    6:28 > .NUXX (Darren Price Mix)
    8:08 >.NUXX (Darren Price Remix)
    4:25/3:43 > .NUXX (Short)
    11:35/9:44 > .NUXX
    9:57 > .NUXX (Deep Pan)

    .NUXX (Radio Edit) (Born Slippy 1996 promo singles)

  11. Matthew McKinnon says:

    Annoyed – yeah, I agree completely. Telematic is one of their very best tracks.
    I remember there was a very slightly trimmed version of the original BS instrumental: it cropped up on a triphop/techno compilation the name of which escapes me – Future Funk? It was just edited slightly at the front to cut to the chase a bit quicker.

  12. Steve Burke says:

    I can only imagine how great ANY of the Underworld albums from dubnobass onwards would sound in all new 5.1 mixes, and Steven Wilson is a big fan of dubnobass and says he really only wants to do surround mixes of albums he loves so what a missed opportunity.

    That said Underworld continue to resist the urge to go “loudness wars” on these remasters and the results are sonically very pleasing, the new CD still manages a DR8 rating which would include it in eligibility for the Dynamic Range Day awards, original was DR13. My 2LP edition is whisper quiet and perfectly centred, very happy to add this one to my collection. Original CD also sounds great too.

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