Second Toughest in the Infants

Second Toughest in the Infants is the fourth studio album by British electronic music group Underworld, and the second in their "MK2" line-up with Darren Emerson. With this album, Underworld expanded on their progressive palette, while developing their signature sound of abrasive beats and anthemic melodies. The name of the album derives from a comment made by member Rick Smith's six-year-old nephew, Simon Prosser, when asked on his progress at infant school (the level of schooling attended by four- to seven-year-old children in the United Kingdom).[1] Second Toughest featured the single "Pearl's Girl". The re-issue featured the band's best known single, "Born Slippy .NUXX".

Second Toughest in the Infants
Studio album by
Released11 March 1996 (1996-03-11)
StudioLemonworld Studios, London
LabelJunior Boy's Own
Underworld chronology

Second Toughest in the Infants
Beaucoup Fish
Singles from Second Toughest in the Infants
  1. "Pearl's Girl"
    Released: May 1996, October 1996 (re-issue)
  2. "Rowla"
    Released: 1996
  3. "Juanita"
    Released: 1996 (promo only)
Alternative cover
Vinyl edition

The album was remastered and re-released on 20 November 2015 with deluxe and super-deluxe expanded editions.[2]



The album opens with the multi-song suite "Juanita : Kiteless : To Dream of Love", which features all three parts intersecting each other at various points during the piece; hence, the use of colons instead of slashes in its name. The loungy, drum and bass track "Banstyle" follows, alongside its downtempo, half-speed counterpart "Sappy's Curry". The rest of the record showcases advancements in the Underworld sound: both "Rowla" and "Pearl's Girl" feature club-ready abrasive beats and basslines, while "Blueski" and "Stagger" incorporate live acoustic guitar and light, melancholic arrangements, respectively. "Pearl's Girl" is one of the few Underworld songs to use breakbeats.

Due to the success of the single "Born Slippy .NUXX", Second Toughest was re-issued with a bonus disc containing the single-only tracks "Born Slippy .NUXX" and "Rez"; Japanese editions also featured "Cherry Pie" and the "(Carp Dreams... Koi)" mix of "Pearl's Girl".

The song titles "Sappy's Curry", "Pearl's Girl" and "Born Slippy" all come from the names of greyhounds from an English racing stadium. These greyhounds finished third, second, and first during Underworld's visit to the races.[3]

Critical reception

Professional ratings
Contemporary reviews
Review scores
AllMusic     [4]
Encyclopedia of Popular Music     [5]
Entertainment WeeklyB+[6]
The Guardian     [7]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide     [10]
The Village VoiceC+[13]

Like their previous effort Dubnobasswithmyheadman, Second Toughest in the Infants received critical acclaim. Anya Sacharow of Entertainment Weekly described the album as "no dumb-bass dance music", adding that Underworld "know how to expand the frenzy of techno and jungle and then retreat to an ambient cool".[6] Melody Maker called Underworld "modest/cynical/smart enough to borrow jungle's finest trademarks",[14] while NME praised them as "smooth of touch, sleek of footing and downright slippery of rhythm" and concluded that they "breezily persevere in their quest for Western groove domination."[9] Stephen Thomas Erlewine of AllMusic said that Second Toughest in the Infants "carries the same knockout punch of their debut, Dubnobasswithmyheadman, but it's subtler and more varied, offering proof that the outfit is one of the leading dance collectives of the mid-'90s."[15]

Melody Maker named Second Toughest in the Infants the fifth best album of 1996,[16] and the album was also ranked at number 37 in NME's 1996 critics' poll.[17] In 2006, the album was ranked at number 96 on Mojo's list of "Modern Classics", with an accompanying write-up stating: "Everything with Underworld is in the detail – never has the introduction of a hi-hat seemed quite so exciting."[18] The album is featured in the book 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die.[19]

In a retrospective review, AllMusic critic Paul Simpson said that "Second Toughest in the Infants endures as a landmark album, spotlighting Underworld at their creative peak, and remaining an important document of an era when experimental, cerebral electronic dance music received significant mainstream attention."[4]

2015 reissue

Professional ratings
Retrospective reviews
Review scores
The Guardian     [20]
The Line of Best Fit9.5/10[21]
Louder than War10/10[22]
Mojo     [23]
Q     [26]
Record Collector     [27]

In 2015, the album was reissued on vinyl and 2-CD and 4-CD expanded editions. Highlighting alternate mixes, remixes and unreleased songs, the 4-CD version includes a full CD of variations of "Born Slippy .NUXX", from one of the song's earliest versions in 1994, up until its final form a year later (which is included here in its 1996 extended form).

Track listing

1."Juanita : Kiteless : To Dream of Love"16:36
2."Banstyle/Sappy's Curry"
  • Emerson
  • Hyde
  • Smith
3."Confusion the Waitress"
  • Emerson
  • Hyde
  • Smith
  • Hyde
  • Smith
5."Pearl's Girl"
  • Emerson
  • Hyde
  • Smith
6."Air Towel"
  • Hyde
  • Smith
  • Hyde
  • Smith
  • Hyde
  • Smith
Reissue bonus CD
1."Born Slippy .NUXX"
  • Emerson
  • Hyde
  • Smith
  • Hyde
  • Smith
Japanese reissue bonus CD
3."Cherry Pie"
  • Emerson
  • Hyde
  • Smith
4."Pearl's Girl" (Carp Dreams... Koi)
  • Hyde
  • Smith
20th anniversary 2-CD deluxe edition CD 2
1."Born Slippy" (Original Instrumental Version)8:31
2."Cherry Pie"8:26
3."Oich Oich"8:34
6."Deep Arch"8:24
7."Confusion the Waitress" (She Said)4:54
8."Rowla" (A1806)3:58
9."Pearls Ver2"8:10
10."Born Slippy .NUXX"11:48

20th anniversary 4-CD super deluxe edition

CD 2: Extra Tracks & Mixes/Remixes
1."Cherry Pie"8:26
2."Oich Oich"8:34
5."Deep Arch"8:24
6."Pearl's Girl" (Tin There)8:16
7."Pearl's Girl" (14996 Version)9:05
8."Born Slippy" (Original Instrumental Version)8:31
9."Born Slippy" (Deep Pan)10:00
CD 3: Unreleased Demos/Outtakes
2."Confusion the Waitress" (She Said)4:54
3."D+B Thing"7:16
4."D'Arbly St."7:34
5."4 Crowns"2:17
6."Rowla" (A1806)3:58
7."Bing Here"9:43
8."Techno Thang"6:26
9."Pearls Ver2"8:10
10."Bloody 1"16:15
CD 4: The Evolution of Born Slippy .NUXX (Various Versions Both Live & Studio)
1."Nuxx" (A1796)8:45
2."Nuxx" (A2221 UW Live (2 Sets) Leicester M Dog 94)12:33
3."Nuxx" (A4712 Live @ Zap Club Brighton Feb94)11:31
4."Nuxx" (A4733 UW Live Amsterdam Apr94)9:21
5."Nuxx" (Liquid Room 94 A2254 UW Live Liquid Room 2 Tokyo)11:31
6."Nuxx" (from A1825)6:11
7."Born Slippy .NUXX"11:48



Certifications and sales

Region Certification Certified units/sales
United Kingdom (BPI)[37] Gold 100,000^
United States 88,000[38]

^ Shipments figures based on certification alone.


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  2. ^ "Second Toughest in the Infants Out Now!". Underworld Live. 20 November 2015. Retrieved 22 November 2015.
  3. ^ Slomowicz, Ron. "Interview with Karl Hyde of Underworld". p. 4. Archived from the original on 18 September 2005. Retrieved 17 June 2020.
  4. ^ a b Simpson, Paul. "Second Toughest in the Infants – Underworld". AllMusic. Retrieved 30 December 2015.
  5. ^ Larkin, Colin (2011). "Underworld". The Encyclopedia of Popular Music (5th concise ed.). Omnibus Press. ISBN 978-0-85712-595-8.
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  7. ^ Bennun, David (15 March 1996). "Underworld: Second Toughest in the Infants (Junior Boys Own)". The Guardian.
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  9. ^ a b "Underworld: Second Toughest in the Infants". NME. 9 March 1996. p. 41.
  10. ^ Spartos, Carla (2004). "Underworld". In Brackett, Nathan; Hoard, Christian (eds.). The New Rolling Stone Album Guide (4th ed.). Simon & Schuster. p. 837. ISBN 0-7432-0169-8.
  11. ^ Male, Andrew (April 1996). "The prog's bollocks". Select. No. 70. p. 90.
  12. ^ Bonner, Michael (April 2016). "Underworld: Buyer's Guide". Uncut. No. 227. p. 29.
  13. ^ Christgau, Robert (3 December 1996). "Consumer Guide: Turkey Shoot". The Village Voice. Retrieved 9 March 2012.
  14. ^ "Underworld: Second Toughest in the Infants". Melody Maker. 3 September 1996. p. 35.
  15. ^ Erlewine, Stephen Thomas. "Second Toughest in the Infants – Underworld". AllMusic. Archived from the original on 25 September 2015. Retrieved 9 March 2012.
  16. ^ "Albums of the Year". Melody Maker. 21–28 December 1996. pp. 66–67.
  17. ^ "Critics' Poll". NME. 21–28 December 1996. pp. 66–67.
  18. ^ "100 Modern Classics – 96. Underworld: Second Toughest in the Infants". Mojo. No. 150. May 2006. p. 54.
  19. ^ " Parker...1001 Albums". Retrieved 9 March 2012.
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  22. ^ Tucker, Simon (22 November 2015). "Underworld: Second Toughest In The Infants – reissue review". Louder than War. Retrieved 20 March 2023.
  23. ^ "Underworld: Second Toughest in the Infants". Mojo. No. 265. December 2015.
  24. ^ Gaerig, Andrew (4 December 2015). "Underworld: Second Toughest in the Infants". Pitchfork. Retrieved 30 December 2015.
  25. ^ Mathers, Ian (9 December 2015). "Underworld: Second Toughest in the Infants (Super Deluxe Edition)". PopMatters. Retrieved 30 December 2015.
  26. ^ Harrison, Ian (December 2015). "Underworld: Second Toughest in the Infants". Q. No. 353. p. 119.
  27. ^ Smith, Phil (Christmas 2015). "Underworld – Second Toughest in the Infants". Record Collector. No. 448. Retrieved 17 June 2020.
  28. ^ Richards, Sam (December 2015). "Underworld: Second Toughest in the Infants". Uncut. No. 223. p. 96.
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  36. ^ "End of Year Album Chart Top 100 – 1996". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 17 June 2020.
  37. ^ "British album certifications – Underworld – Second Toughest in the Infants". British Phonographic Industry. Retrieved 17 June 2020. Select albums in the Format field. Select Gold in the Certification field. Type Second Toughest in the Infants in the "Search BPI Awards" field and then press Enter.
  38. ^ Paoletta, Michael (20 March 1999). "UK Dance Act Targets US Audience With Junior Boy's Own, V2 Disc". Billboard. Vol. 111, no. 12. p. 11. Retrieved 2 June 2018.