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Studio album by Underworld
Released 24 January 1994
Recorded 1993 at Lemonworld Studios and The Strongroom, London
Genre Techno, progressive house, progressive trance
Length 72:53
Label Junior Boy's Own
Producer Underworld
Underworld chronology
Change the Weather

Second Toughest in the Infants
Singles from dubnobasswithmyheadman
  1. "Mmm Skyscraper... I Love You"
    Released: 1993
  2. "Cowgirl"
    Released: 1994
  3. "Dark & Long"
    Released: 1994
  4. "Dirty Epic"
    Released: 1994
Alternative cover
Vinyl edition

dubnobasswithmyheadman is the third album by Underworld, released in the UK on Junior Boy's Own on 24 January 1994.[1][2] It was the first Underworld album after the 1980s version of the band had made the transition from synthpop to techno and progressive house and is also the first album to feature Darren Emerson as a band member, ushering in the "MK2" phase of the band, which continued until Emerson's departure in 2001.


The first version of Underworld had ended after a 1989 tour of North America as the support act to the Eurythmics. After the tour Karl Hyde had stayed in the US for two months to work at Prince's Paisley Park Studios as a session musician. When Hyde returned to the UK he found his former bandmate Rick Smith had been collaborating on dance tracks with a teenage DJ named Darren Emerson at Hyde and Smith's studio in Romford.[3] The three men started to swap ideas and create songs, resulting in a series of singles released throughout 1992 and 1993 under the names Underworld and Lemon Interrupt.

Underworld's approach to songwriting was very fluid, and based on the idea that everything was valid. Hyde told Melody Maker, "We're grabbing elements from all different times and areas of music and taking them somewhere else. We don't want to simply regurgitate the past, and even though we're using vocals and guitars, we're trying to do it in new ways. We're trying to find ways which makes those elements relevant to today. By not following a blueprint, we're able to base a song on acoustic guitar, or we can do a pure techno track, based on an oscillator. In the past, Rick and I have often been excited by a poem or a film or something and thought, 'That's inspired us to do a great reggae tune but we can't because we're not in a reggae band'. Now we would think, 'F*** yes, let's do it'." Smith added, "There's a lot of cutting and pasting, especially with the vocals. Something which is recorded for one track one day may well end up on three different tracks a few months down the line. Nothing is fixed. They're just points for us to jump off of."[3]


Tomato, the art design collective that includes Underworld's Rick Smith and Karl Hyde, designed the artwork for dubnobasswithmyheadman. It features black and white type that has been "multiplied, smeared, and overlaid" so much that it is nearly unreadable, alongside a "bold symbol consisting of a fractured handprint inside a broken circle".[4] The artwork was originally intended for Tomato's book Mmm... Skyscraper I Love You: A Typographic Journal of New York, published in 1994.[5]

According to the authors of The Greatest Album Covers of All Time, the cover "set a new standard of presentation for subsequent Dance albums".[5] In Graphic Design: A New History, Stephen Eskilson cites the cover as a notable example of the "expressive, chaotic graphics" that developed in the 1990s, a design style he calls "grunge".[6] Paul Zelevansky of the journal Substance says that "the packaging … replays the visual poetry of the 1960s and '70s and fast forwards to the alchemical transformations of computer graphics packages."[7]

The album artwork also features excerpts of lyrics to the bands 1996 hit "Born Slippy .NUXX", which is surprising as the track was released two years after the album.

Critical reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic 5/5 stars[8]
Drowned in Sound 10/10[9]
Melody Maker very favourable[10]
NME 8/10[11]
Slant Magazine 4/5 stars[12]
Vox 8/10[13]

dubnobasswithmyheadman received critical acclaim from music critics. Writing in Melody Maker, a year before he left to co-found the specialist dance music magazine Muzik, Ben Turner proclaimed that "Dubnobasswithmyheadman is the most important album since The Stone Roses and the best since Screamadelica... While others are content to go techno techno techno techno [a reference to the lyrics of "No Limit" by 2 Unlimited, a UK No. 1 hit the previous year], Underworld have taken a step back, utilising Karl Hyde and Rick Smith's experience in rock music and throwing it full in the face of 22-year-old DJ, Darren Emerson. The result is utterly contemporary, the sound of the moment, beautifully capturing melodic techno, deranged lyricism, historic bass and lead guitars and astounding walls of rhythm... This breathtaking hybrid marks the moment that club culture finally comes of age and beckons to everyone."[10] NME said, "Before Underworld's startling remixes for Björk and Orbital last year, no-one would've put money on ex-members of... popsters Freur making the first visionary record of '94... The sheer weight of ideas on offer and the constant variance of sounds and textures add up to a coherent, cogent whole, not a series of jack-tracks sequenced together, nor a series of hits with filler thrown in... By writing 'songs'—albeit playful, deranged ones—Underworld have come up with a solution for the facelessness that blights some dance music."[11] Vox wrote that "apart from the lumbering blasphemy of 'Dirt Epic' [sic], the only non-event here, it's all go-with-the-flow stuff laced with intricacies... Attractive, undulating and with moments of innovation, this Underworld offering transcends many of the limitations of its genre."[13]

John Bush from Allmusic gave the album 5 out of 5 stars saying "From the beginning of the first track "Dark & Long", Underworld's focus on production is clear, with songwriting coming in a distant second" also adding that "Underworld are truly a multi-genre group".[14] Adie Nunn from Drowned in Sound gave the album a perfect 10/10 score describing it as "An album indie kids and pop kids could like as well as the electronic elite, whist the band retained their credibility".[9] Sal Cinquemani from Slant Magazine gave it 4 out of 5 stars saying that "It stands as their greatest overall contribution to electronic music" and also stating that "The album blends Acid House, Techno and Dub into a refined, epic headrush".[12]


dubnobasswithmyheadman was ranked at number 16 in Melody Maker's "Albums of the Year" in 1994.[15]

  • Q (12/99, p. 82) - Included in Q Magazine's "90 Best Albums Of The 1990s."[16]
  • Alternative Press (5/00, p. 120) - Included in AP's "10 Essential Dance Albums That Rock"
  • Alternative Press (7/95, p. 116) - "...this British conglomerate brought critics and listeners to their knees with a sprawling epic of guitars, muttered vocals and subtle, intricate beats..."

Track listing[edit]

All songs by Karl Hyde and Rick Smith unless noted.

  1. "Dark & Long" – 7:35
  2. "Mmm Skyscraper I Love You" (Darren Emerson/Hyde/Smith) – 13:08
  3. "Surfboy" (Emerson/Hyde/Smith) – 7:33
  4. "Spoonman" – 7:41
  5. "Tongue" – 4:50
  6. "Dirty Epic" – 9:55
  7. "Cowgirl" – 8:29
  8. "River of Bass" – 6:26
  9. "M.E." – 7:08

Early prototype[edit]

A prototype of the album surfaced on 3 October 2008 on Underworld's official messageboard, which featured a different running order, some extended mixes and three previously unreleased songs: "Big Meat Show", "Organ" and "Can You Feel Me", an outtake from previous sessions. "Organ" has since been featured on Underworld's MySpace page, and "Big Meat Show" appears in a longer version on 1992–2012 The Anthology.

  1. "Dirty Epic" – 9:59
  2. "Jamscraper" – 8:57
  3. "Big Meat Show" – 6:52
  4. "Mmm… Skyscraper I Love You" – 13:02
  5. "Organ" – 6:23
  6. "River of Bass" – 9:10
  7. "Dark and Long" – 7:31
  8. "Dirty Fuzz" – 9:55
  9. "Can U Feel Me" – 4:31
  10. "Goodbye Mother Earth" – 7:08


Chart (1994) Peak
UK Albums Chart[17] 12


  1. ^ Jones, Nick (January 1994). Mixmag 2 (32) (London, England: DMC Publishing). p. 29. 
  2. ^ "From the Underworld". Melody Maker (London, England: IPC Media). 15 January 1994. p. 4. 
  3. ^ a b Push (22 January 1994). "Going Overground". Melody Maker (London, England: IPC Media). pp. 24–25. 
  4. ^ Zelevansky 136; Eskilson 375.
  5. ^ a b Miles et al. 214.
  6. ^ Eskilson 374.
  7. ^ Zelevansky 136.
  8. ^ Bush, John. Underworld – Dubnobasswithmyheadman > Review at AllMusic. Retrieved 14 February 2012.
  9. ^ a b Nunn, Adie (2003-01-13). "Underworld - Dubnobasswithmyheadman / Releases / Releases // Drowned In Sound". Drownedinsound.com. Retrieved 2012-02-14. 
  10. ^ a b Turner, Ben (15 January 1994). "Review: Underworld – Dubnobasswithmyheadman". Melody Maker (London, England: IPC Media). p. 27. 
  11. ^ a b Fadele, Dele (15 January 1994). "Review: Underworld – Dubnobasswithmyheadman". NME (London, England: IPC Media). p. 28. 
  12. ^ a b "Underworld: dubnobasswithmyheadman | Music Review". Slant Magazine. 2002-11-02. Retrieved 2012-02-14. 
  13. ^ a b Strongman, Phil (February 1994). "Review: Underworld – Dubnobasswithmyheadman". Vox (41) (London, England: IPC Media). p. 68. 
  14. ^ "Dubnobasswithmyheadman by Underworld @ ARTISTdirect.com - Shop, Listen, Download". Artistdirect.com. Retrieved 2012-02-14. 
  15. ^ "Albums of the Year". Melody Maker (London, England: IPC Media). 24 December 1994. pp. 66–67. 
  16. ^ http://www.cduniverse.com/search/xx/music/pid/1152677/a/Dubnobasswithmyheadman.htm
  17. ^ http://www.officialcharts.com/artist/_/underworld/

Further reading[edit]

  • Eskilson, Stephen J. Graphic Design: A New History. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2007.
  • Miles, Barry, Grant Scott, and Johnny Morgan. The Greatest Album Covers of All Time. London: Collins & Brown, 2005.
  • Zelevansky, Paul. "Attention SPAM®." Substance, 26: 135–159, 1997.