The Chemical Brothers – Dig Your Own Hole
Released April 7th, 1997 on Virgin Records
As an adolescent I hung out with the stoners, the smoking pit crowd, the “greasers”, the rockers – however you want to call it, my friends were not the type to wholeheartedly embrace the sort of music that was making inroads in our mainstream consciousness during the mid 1990s. Some of them splintered off and decided that hip hop was where it was at (they were right, in retrospect), but most of us plodded on with the Korns and the Bizkits, as the well-heeled buying public who lived vicariously through tortured-artist college rock and floor-punching macho pablum (with respect to Propagandhi). Give us our guitars or give us death, we all probably thought at one point or another.
Still, there was something radically compelling about the kind of electronica that was finding it’s way onto radio between 1995 and 1999. The Prodigy were practically a de facto punk band, with their mohawked singer and their overall vicious sensibility. Ditto Atari Teenage Riot, whom we were all acquainted with through the legendary Spawn soundtrack. The Sneaker Pimps kind of felt like an alt rock band that had been through a wringer that got rid of – most of – the guitars, in the same sense as Portishead. The Chemical Brothers, though, were something else. Dig Your Own Hole embodied – embodies – the sounds of big beat. These beats are big, in the purest sense of the word. The duo knock out funked-up samples and acid-inspired synthesizers and watch them land with the force of an atomic bomb into breakbeats that were, from the moment I heard them, all I ever wanted out of drums.
“Block Rockin’ Beats” and “Setting Sun” are the bigger singles, but every track on here hits the same particular nerve endings that make me want to loop the album forever. It’s an amalgamation of drum n bass, hip hop, psychedelia, and English rave culture and it follows an internal logic that punches holes in walls. Twenty years later it still gets the party going like nothing else.