Sneaker Pimps' synthesis of pop-oriented trip-hop and glam-inspired alternative rock reached the U.K. Top 40 five times during the late '90s. Founding members Liam Howe and Chris Corner, alternately known as Line of Flight and F.R.I.S.K., named the group after the Beastie Boys' term for a person drafted to obtain premium footwear. Assisted by fellow songwriter Ian Pickering, vocalist Kelli Dayton, drummer David Westlake, and bassist Joe Wilson, Sneaker Pimps debuted in 1996 with Becoming X, an album highlighted by its third and fourth singles, the John Barry-sampling "6 Underground" -- an amiable tune boosted by a remix from Nellee Hooper -- and the creeping, sneering "Spin Spin Sugar." It narrowly missed the U.K. Top Ten but was eventually certified gold by the British Phonographic Industry. A companion limited release, Becoming Remixed, was issued in 1998, with contributions from the likes of Paul Oakenfold, Armand Van Helden, and Roni Size.
Despite the debut's triumphs, Dayton -- subsequently known as Kelli Ali -- was dismissed once Corner and Howe determined that new material was best suited for Corner's voice. Splinter, released in 1999, featured a darker, emotional bloodletting edge that placed the group closer to the realm of Garbage, Placebo, and Death in Vegas. Commercially, there wasn't nearly as much success. The album stalled at number 80 in the U.K. In the U.S., fans had to seek import copies. Bloodsport, the group's third and final album, was released in 2002. Similarly dramatic in tone, it incorporated a smart array of samples from recordings by Ultravox!, Visage, Iggy Pop, and -- for a slight change of pace, perhaps -- Bill Withers. This one was issued in the U.S., where it peaked at number 16 on Billboard's Top Electronic Albums chart, but it didn't register on the main U.K. chart.
After Sneaker Pimps' disbandment, Howe recorded with Wilson as the Zip and Ultrafox. More notably, he attained greater notice as a songwriter and producer due to collaborations with the likes of Adele, Ellie Goulding, Lana Del Rey, Marina and the Diamonds, and FKA twigs. He and Pickering also aided Corner's long-running solo venture IAMX. ~ Andy Kellman