THE MID TO LATE Nineties were a great time for British Dance and Electronic music. Portishead brought Trip Hop to mainstream ears, The Prodigy ruled the charts, even if their music couldn’t always be played, Spiritualized were creating a stir with their third studio album and Fatboy Slim emerged into scene with his soon-to-be classic tracks. In the midst of this, two DJs from Manchester were perhaps making some of the biggest beats of them all.
The Chemical Brothers (formally known as The Dust Brothers until threatened with legal action) had already made waves with their debut, Exit Planet Dust, and things could only get better with their second album, entitled Dig Your Own Hole. After moving to major label Virgin, the duo began to record new material, sticking to the ‘Big Beat’ sound that had been so popular on Exit Planet Dust, but incorporating certain elements of Psychedelic music and Acid House.
If there’s one thing Dig Your Own Hole does better than Exit Planet Dust, it’s the standout quality of the songs. Almost every song feels like it could be a single, unlike with their debut, which felt more like a complete album of connected Dance music. With appearances from Noel Gallagher and Beth Orton, Dig Your Own Hole flaunts its celebrity nature and is something The Chemical Brothers would use to a greater extent later on in their career. It’s amusing how the duo collaborated with Noel Gallagher (guitarist of the world’s greatest Beatles tribute act) on ‘Setting Sun’, a track that sounds no dissimilar to ‘Tomorrow Never Knows’. In fact, it had to be proved in court that the track didn’t sample the Fab Four at all.
Elsewhere The Chemical Brothers exhibit some fresh drum and bass cuts which sound like they came direct from the record deck. Opener ‘Block Rockin’ Beats’ is a pulsating, thumping piece whose lyrical hook is a welcome return for the duo. ‘Elektrobank’ and the title track continue this trend, with chunky bass hooks which give the songs a surprisingly organic for Dance tracks. ‘Get Up On It Like This’ and ‘It Doesn’t Matter’ utilise vocal loops and build on top of that to make an interesting blend of Acid House and near-spoken word samples. Beth Orton leaves a strong impression on ‘Where Do I Begin’, easily the most ‘chilled’ track on the album, with the Chems and Orton’s vocals working well together to create a relaxed electronica vibe.
In my opinion though, the best track on this album is the underrated ‘Lost in the K-Hole’. It’s probably the simplest track on the album, yet so good. The bass hook and cut-and-paste drum part is mixed with reverse vocal loops and a glistening keyboards to create a funky feel and is honestly one of the best parts of this album. Why this track doesn’t get more credit I don’t know, but I’ve included it at the bottom of this article.
Dig Your Own Hole is arguably The Chemical Brothers’ best album. While there are some gems on Surrender and Come With Us, nothing really lives up to their first two albums, perhaps the closest being the commercial Push the Button, which pulled in big name cameos. But Dig Your Own Hole still holds in own in the 2015, and when compared to the likes of Skrillex or Calvin Harris, we can really see how much the genre has changed.
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