An interesting medium to ramble through
British electronic duo Underworld and “Godfather of Punk” Iggy Pop join forces and cook up the silly and at times amusing Teatime Dub Encounters, a mix of basic house and techno instrumentals and Iggy Pop’s gravelly rambling. Not straying far from the sound of 2016’s Barbra Barbra, We Face a Shining Future, Underworld gives Iggy a groovy and diverse set of sonic spaces to get his points across. And while both sides of the equation are hit or miss, this is definitely a worthy curiosity.
The first cut “Bells & Circles” opens up with hard-hitting techno, and Mr. Pop has a comical spoken word monologue about the old days when you could smoke on the airplane. The delivery and punchlines are pretty hilarious over techno grooves. The problem is when the story is done, the instrumental gets pretty bland.
The next track “Trapped” has a cold and airy techno instrumental with some social commentary from Pop about being trapped with a mortgage and a family and saying “goodbye to the little boy inside.” The message falls a little flat here; From a rock star’s skewed irregular perspective, sure, a family and house payments are negative, but is there nothing more pressing or interesting to riff about? The status quo critique of society is somewhat lazy, and Iggy comes off as a clueless rock star who’s poking fun at normal folks for having commitments.
“I’ll See Big” doesn’t work so well either. The instrumental is slow, atmospheric and pretty, but Iggy’s spoken word delivery is tedious and him rambling about how being a douchebag to get ahead in life culminates in a series of false dichotomies and preachy baby boomerisms. The last track “Get Your Shirt” is just more Iggy Pop being preachy, yet the old school synth wave instrumental is probably the best on the EP. While not introducing any new interesting ideas musically, it’s simply tasteful and sounds good. Iggy is using a shirt as an analogy for wealth and success and how not to sign your life away for a person, corporation or label, but the lyrics are pretty vague. For a seven-minute track, Iggy doesn’t really give the listener much to grab on to or decode.
All in all, this project is an inane curiosity. It’s fun to hear humorous spoken word over some techno like the highlight “Bells & Circles,” but Iggy phones it in on to many of these tracks and when he tries to be deep it comes off at myopic and preachy. For the most part, Underworld does okay keeping tracks stripped back and groovy, as not to distract from Iggy, but there isn’t anything special or noteworthy about these productions. Both Iggy and Underworld could have put more thought and creativity into this EP, but at least we have standup comedy/spoken word techno now.