know what you're thinking here, is this the same Underneath What that were around
in the late 80's - and you're just getting round to reviewing it now? Well,
erm, yes, and would you believe me if I said they are just about to release
a second album over 20 years later - way to go!
The reasons for the delay become somewhat apparent when you start to read into the history. Formed in the mid eighties, it wasn't long before a 17-year old guitarist later turned vocalist named Andrew Berenyi fell into a downward spiral, which introduced him to a world of drugs and heavy heroin dependency. Those who joined the band didn't fare much better - drummer Peter Petoom committed suicide by jumping off a building in his native Holland, another member survived an overdose, Andrew was later deported from the UK and another member has been missing for over 10 years.
However the happy part to this story (there is one I hear you ask?) is that Andrew has now been drug free for a good number of years and has reformed Underneath What - BUT WAIT - as I write this very review and check out his website, I hear that Underneath What have split up again!
Before the situation changes, let me cut to the chase. We're looking at two albums here - 'What Is It', a collection of all of Underneath What's singles and EPs plus a couple of bonus songs and a new CD, 'Up Yours With The Downfall, Baby'.
To be honest, I don't know if 'Up Yours With The Downfall, Baby' will ever see the light of day, I doubt if Andrew does himself as he is concentrating on another project, so you may be looking at an exclusive review of a CD that never is!
What Is It
'What Is It' is a quite dark mixture of rock, goth and glam that is really similar to the likes of Crazyhead with a hint of Echo and the Bunnymen and a slice of early Suede. In fact, on tracks like 'Bad Star', you could throw a few more bands in here like Sisters of Mercy, Gene Loves Jezebel and Fields of the Nephilim for good measure. Underneath What toured with some of these bands and I was actually quite lucky to see them when they toured with the Dogs D'Amour around 1989, but I have to admit my memory of their performance is a bit hazy.
Tracks like 'Firebomb Telecom' and 'Bad Karma Chameleon' are quite up-tempo and slightly reminiscent of the Dogs and Hanoi, which is quite a contrast to the darker songs. It's like Underneath What hadn't really decided on a particular style at this point but you have to remember that this CD spans about 4 EPs, each one with its own style. Songs like 'Their Heads Exploded' and 'Eggs Bacon Coffee and Suicide' show yet another style that Underneath What dabble in to with a slightly funky feel to them.
One thing I can say is that I don't think anyone is going to get completely into this album in one listen. What they will realise is that Underneath What had a really wide range of influences and the songs are ingenious throughout despite the fact that, dare I say, the band can't remember a lot about recording some of them.
You're gonna have to accept that this is a band that you could really grow to love or be unable to handle as there's just too much going on, but for me this is a well produced album, gothic in some places, metal in others and the rest is just the universe thrown in for good measure.
Up Yours With The Downfall, Baby
So how different is Underneath What's latest offering? Well first of all I should point out that three of the songs on 'Up Yours' are the same as those on 'What Is It' and as far as I can make out only one is slightly different so expect to hear eight new offerings this time.
'Angeldevil Womanman' opens with Berenyi sounding very Bolanesque but no sooner has the first song ended than we are into a trippy and very 'Dark Side of the Moon' sounding song called 'Wanna Grrrooove'. Straight away I see no correlation between the first two songs in terms of style and would it surprise you to hear that song three, 'Sex&god$rocknrolland CARS' bears no style similarity to the first two.
It's quite an experience as I know I am listening to the same band but my ears are telling me differently - imagine Ritual De Lo Habitual but more disjointed and not as refined. Hats off boys, if it was creativity and variety you were aiming for then full marks but what may put people off this album is continuity.
When you buy an album, you can usually tell that all songs on it were the same artist albeit that they may perform different approaches but at least somehow, whether it's the guitar sound or the vocals, you know it's them from start to finish and you feel comfortable with that.
If I played you both albums, I'd bet that the majority of people would say they were not by the same artist but what they would say is that both have something in common - there is a definite evolution happening from one song to the next but there is no pattern, just chaos theory.
I don't doubt Underneath What's musical ability, that shines through on every song, each one being quite unique, stunning in places and the production is above average but I feel like I'm standing at the back of a dark, smoke filled spinning room and all I can see are blurred shadows in front of me - that's the place I'm in when I listen to 'Up Yours'.
Perhaps that place is the epitomy of Berenyi's last ten years - you know you were there, and you can just about remember enough in order to piece it all together and only then do you start to get the whole picture. Well the analogy here is, after you listen to this album you won't remember too much about it but you'll think - yeah, I think that was a good 'trip'. I tell you what, I'll do it one more time just to make certain. If you understand that, then you'll understand this album!
by Grant W.