Hey all. We've got a special guest post today, from Ray at the super swell site Testify. He'd like to share with you a modern classic drinking tune. We think Ray's spot-on with his evaluation.
Take it away, Ray:
In his 2002 book Black Vinyl, White Powder, Simon Napier Bell wrote of Underworld:
“Working with keyboards and computers, painting with sound and rhythm, they could create an aural collage that could be considered on a par with the best contemporary art of all sorts. Like all seriously considered art the imagery contained in it was often obsessive and personal.”
In 1996 Young British Artists (YBA’s) were central to a new self confidence in British cultural life, which together with Brit Pop and the promise of a new Labour government, led to a lot excitable chatter about a neo-Swinging London. Though originally released in 1995, as an anonymous b-side Born Slippy (NUXX) achieved prominence when featured on the soundtrack of 1996’s Trainspotting , in the language of the time, a great Brit flick. So, by extension, Born Slippy (NUXX) became a part of the soundtrack of those times, the drinking song du jour of the Hirst’s and Emin’s that Napier Bell was doubtless thinking of when he talked of the “best contemporary art”. It poured out from the bars of newly fashionable Hoxton and Shoreditch as well as everywhere else like the bottles of lager it apparently hymned.
So, yes, it would be easy to mistake Born Slippy (NUXX) for contemporary art but for all its modernist tropes Born Slippy (NUXX) belongs to a much older British Art tradition than the YBA partys it soundtracked. Born Slippy (NUXX) is positively Hogarthian.
Like Hogarth’s Gin Lane or Night, Born Slippy (NUXX) is both reportage and a sneering lampooning of that which it reports on. Karl Hyde's lyrics are often called stream of consciousness, but to me they sound utterly authentic. Hyde isn’t delving into his subconscious rather he, is channeling the life around him, simply repeating the sounds of Britain at play: “Lager, Lager, Lager …shouting…” however his deadpan delivery drains it of life, it implicitly comments on it and ultimately rejects it. As the music changes from sombre piano to pummeling beats it is perhaps possible to hear the city and its playful inhabitants crushed, at least in the febrile imagination of the songs protagonist.
At this point in there career Underworld featured DJ Darren Emerson and were aligned with the rave scene. Since the late eighties Rave, in the UK at least, had been the latest flowering of rock ‘n’ roll’s Dionysian promise of a good time all the time, of one nation under the groove getting down etc etc.
Of course there were dissenters, a disgruntled clubland elite who found a voice in the Boys Own fanzine. As early as 1990 Norman Jay bemoaned in Boys Own, the fact that rave was no longer the preserve of “London’s style and fashion conscious, flat top trendy and clued up clubber” and poured scorn on ‘Joe Public’ who “boogies on down in the raves convinced he’s a trendy (silly cunt)” One assumes those people in New Labour who bestowed an MBE on Jay for "deejaying and services to music" on 12th November 2002 didn’t read Boys Own.
The Boys Own clique despised what they saw as johnny cum lately “acid teds”, that huge section of society that had been turned onto rave not by cool tastemakers such as themselves but rather read about it in the tabloids and wanted a slice of the action.
Boys Own founded their own record label, Junior Boys Own, which included on its roster...Underworld!
Born Slippy (NUXX) turned out to be well named however as it slipped its trendy moorings and found itself at number two in the charts Underworld found themselves no longer simply detached observers of Saturday night excess, they were now an integral part of it, for by then even the least trendy most revolting pub was singing along.
All together now…”Lager, Lager Lager…”
Underworld: Born Slippy (NUXX) (mp3)
Lager is almost as good for you as gin.