Review Summary: The dance album for people who don't like dance music.
Atomic Hooligan, aka Matt Welch and Terry Ryan, made a big name for themselves on the early 2000s breakbeat scene. They became known for producing tracks that featured big basslines and dancefloor beats, most notably Club Shaker and their remix of Underworld's Born Slippy. However, when it came to their first album they did what only a handful of dance acts go for: rather than filling a CD with 10 or so banging floor-fillers, they went for crafting a cohesive album covering many styles and moods whilst still being true to their breakbeat roots. Although the breaks are plentiful on this album, they continually ooze with funk, rock, disco, soul, and whatever else took the Hooligan's ears at the time of recording.
The first track is a perfect setup for the album. Seven 10 Split is a storming rock song dressed up in dance clothing. A guitar lick opens the track with some double time drum beats, which build to a high intensity during the chorus. At this point, the synths and rhythms swirl in and around the other instruments, and Justine Berry's vocals nail the track down and lock themselves into the listener's head.
One of the different things about this album (for a dance album), is not only the amount of vocal tracks featured, but also how little this holds the album back. Too many times for me, producers seem to be restrained by using vocals, and as such their albums don't have as much energy or punch as the individual records they release. This is definitely not the case on You Are Here. Sweet Hustler features on two tracks that highlight Atomic Hooligan's ability to show off their musical strengths alongside some impressive vocals. Shine A Light begins on a huge acid house trip with a walloping and bubbly 303 intro, then bursts into a euphoric-gospel number that is impossible to sit still for, whilst the title track which closes the album is a very rocky, live instrument number in which Sweet's vocals switch between a few lahs and yeahs, and some almost spoken recitals of the track title. In the middle is a full-on harmonica solo (which is infinitely better than it sounds on paper) that signals the final build up as the whole track comes together in a huge, fists-in-the-air crescendo.
As well as using the vocal talents of long-time Hooligan stalwarts on this album, the song Wait Til You're Sleeping features the wonderfully named Carpet Face, and is as close to an all-out rock song as any dance act I know of have ever got. And it rocks along amazingly well to a glorious disco stomp! We also get a dose of funk with Pump Friction and Spitball, some light and dreamlike moments with Steal The Sun and Dreaming (clearly!), even an almost-ballad with Twelve Hundred Miles.
Finally, You Are Here also shows the Hooligan doing what they always did so well. Head and Just One More are the straight up booming breaks tracks that were expected from an Atomic Hooligan album: hi-energy, almost ravey (especially Just One More) featuring very techy stabs and the boombastic beats that the breakbeat scene was renowned for.
You Are Here is so much more than the typical dancefloor oriented tunes that dance music so often provides. It is a fluid, cohesive album built around proper songs featuring a large array of music styles, whilst clearly being deeply rooted in breakbeat. For me, the early part of this century was head and shoulders the high point for breakbeat, and You Are Here sits right at the top of the pile.