Review Summary: Despite a flawed mid-section, Dig Your Own Hole presents too much energy and sonic wizardry to pass unnoticed. A true highpoint from The Chemical Brothers
They’re a little old now, but once upon a time The Chemical Brothers were the epiphany of high-energy big-beat-techno-angst, especially way back in England 1997. Flexible rhythms, quirky samples and huge amounts of energy all came together and materialised in the form of Dig Your Own Hole
, an album commonly viewed to be their masterpiece. Tom Rowlands and Ed Simons’s efforts to mix together an album quirky enough to top a DJ’s set list and accessible enough to reach the Top 10 succeeds in melding various styles, including hip-hop, breakbeat, aggressive rock samples and techno, yet remains dark and energetic enough to really stand out. Unfortunately, it is, as numerous football commentators might put it, an album ”…of three halves…”
It opens with ‘Block Rockin’ Beats‘
which throbs its way into your head as the album opener, using old-skool funky basslines to catch you off guard, and the pace shows no signs of slowing down, continuing onto the title track, ‘Dig Your Own Hole‘
, which thumps its way along at a dirty, warped pace, sounding effortlessly cool. The multitude of rhythms present only add to the pace and you find yourself eventually urping along into ‘Elektrobank‘
, a rather morose yet funky electronic romp, which opens with a vocal sample by rapper Keith Murray, then goes into an electronic version of a throbbing thunderstorm, and finally enters into some lovely bassy effects and aggressive rapping, all of which eventually peters out into some unnerving, rhythmic, bleakly morose screeches. Oh yeah, it’s been all good so far.
And then, once the initial thrust of energy has been expended, the Brothers try experimenting a little in a mid-section that, unfortunately, sags badly. We get ‘Piku‘
, which stutters along repetitively, only made slightly more interesting by the odd shimmering echo effect or metallic tinkle. ‘It Doesn’t Matter‘
chugs away and tries to escape to somewhere more interesting, but fails, instead pausing to give way to electronic murmurs and robotic vocal samples, while hiding a certain screechy element that eventually explodes out at the very end of the track. Little wonder they chose to drop ‘Setting Sun’
(the single) right in the middle of it all. It’s the most memorable track here, fusing orgasmic, angsty guitars with massive pounding drums, climactic screeches, a frenetic pace and Noel Gallagher’s vocals, and again, that raw energy just refuses to go away. ’Don’t Stop The Rock’
, unfortunately, simply pewts its way into hollow-sounding anonymity, although ’Get Up On It Like This’
bounces playfully along, again crackling with energy, while funky sampled horns add a little drama; a great, catchy, stylish track. It should be pointed out; this mid-section is deliciously dark and hollow-sounding, but ultimately falls into the rhythmic trap of reeling over and over, with few real twists or turns mid-track. The beats change all the time; the effects don't; you get alternate slams, screeches and shimmers, but not much else.
And so, the final part of the album sees the dynamic duo experiment with their more psychedelic side, as demonstrated on the trippy/comedy track, ‘Lost In The K Hole’
, which twists the rhythm into a squelchy ‘tum-tiss‘
to underpin the pithy dreamscape of meandering twinkles; hey, you’re almost there, a pathetic pile of drugged-up mush on the club floor.
‘Where Do I Begin‘
, the hangover song, starts with a rich, golden-sounding guitar that beautifully describes the first sights from blurry eyes on waking up after one of those
nights, before going all sentimental, eventually bleeping its way into those
beats again, still carrying the main melody, before breaking down into a freefall uurrrrrrrrpppppppppp….
And finally, ‘The Private Psychedelic Reel’s
bombastic, inexorable three-note riff just refuses to leave this epic piece of psychedelic techno alone. Oh sure, it's repetitive, but it contains a certain indefinable something
; an insistence that simply won't go away, and its Indian-sitar influence bounces away for a full nine minutes and finishes (eventually…) the album on a powerful note - you’re almost breathless from the sheer amount of energy expended by this stage.
Dig Your Own Hole
is casually revered as a classic. While that may be a little too generous, you can’t deny the sheer power of the majority of the tracks here. Cynics might point out that many of the ideas here had been attemped already, in the early 90s acid/rave scene, but none had achieved such a sense of expertise or sheer raw, unpolished power as this. ‘Energy’ is this album’s guiding light, its shining star, and it exudes a rather dark feeling, far rawer and dirtier than the comparatively laid back and polished ‘Surrender’
. A cacophony of acid beats, high energy rhythms and freaky samples, Dig Your Own Hole
would deservedly earn its place in any electronica/big beat fan's collection. It’s too energetic and vehement to pass by.