FEATURE: Celebrating The Chemical Brothers – Dig Your Own Hole

chemical brothers dig your own hole

Written for DIY

I think I was about eight years old when my dad handed me a Chemical Brothers mixtape – on an actual cassette and all – which I took greedily and legged up the stairs to play to death on my cheap stereo. I say mixtape; it was pretty much just the best bits from 1997’s ‘Dig Your Own Hole’, in a different order. And I devoured that thing. To me, Tom Rowlands and Ed Simons – I had no idea what they looked like, nor did I care – were making some of the most amazing, mind-boggling, meticulously constructed dance records my little ears had been privy to. Listening to it now, my opinion hasn’t changed a dot.

While I’ve a soft spot for their debut, ‘Exit Planet Dust’, with its thoughtful beat-driven dance and its gorgeous vocals by Beth Orton, the follow up is even better. They stepped their game up considerably, both musically and vocally: Orton re-appears for ‘Where Do I Begin’, but the stand-out collaborations are the Mercury Rev’s Jonathan Donahue on the aptly-named ‘The Private Psychedelic Reel’ and, star of the show, Noel Gallagher putting a turn in on undoubted highlight ‘Setting Sun’. Crotchety old Noel proved himself to be both the real songwriting and vocal powerhouse in Oasis on a song that manages to harness the manic kaleidoscopic energy of the sort his band cribbed from but never quite emulated (whilst doing some Oasis-like pilfering of the drums from the Fab Four’s ‘Tomorrow Never Knows’).

They also did what dance artists are supposed to do, which is to make some proper club bangers, putting together two of the best with the Schooly D-sampling ‘Block Rockin’ Beats’ and ‘Don’t Stop The Rock’ (the latter originally titled, fittingly, ‘Electronic Battle Weapon 2’), both of which you’ll be familiar with if you played a FIFA game in the 90s. To me, it’s an album that very much reminds me of that era – and considering it’s cultural impact, I’m probably not alone. That’s not to say it’s ‘of it’s time’ or anything – it sits at the epoch of a style, or a sub-set, of music that doesn’t really exist any more. The beats are big, but they’re not lumbering giants – they’re intelligent, quick on their feet, endlessly inventive. And that’s probably why I’m still listening to that tape today.


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