With their new album Dig Your Own Hole, the CHEMICAL BROTHERS have taken acid noise and kicking backbeats to a new
level of alchemy. Words: Thom Dibdin
A DANCE FLOOR. somewhere in Scotland. 1905. Billy Nasty has just finished a set of particularly dirty proportions: fast. incessant and furiously rolling kick drums have kept the crowd tranced-out for hours. As the sweat rolls down the applauding punters’ bodies. Nasty drops one final track. One last slab of aural delight. The acetate of Leave Home by the Chemical Brothers leaves the danceﬂoor reeling.
The Chemical Brothers. Tom Rowlands and Ed Simons. make in-your-face. aggressive music. powered by strong breakbeats, acid noise. howling sirens and nagging vocal lines. It takes the essence of dance music —— the looped sample — and broadens it out into a wider palette.
They make rock 'n‘ roll for the dance generation. never too elitist to take four whole bars of a drum solo and drop it into the mix. Suck on that. dance purists!
Appropriately enough. the Chemicals‘ first Number One single was a collaboration with Noel Gallagher of Oasis. Last year’s ‘Setting Sun‘ went straight into the top slot and dropped straight out again. but the damage was done. Rather than walking a dangerous tightrope between media-defined genres. the duo had built a solid bridge between them.
Back in 1992. Rowlands and Simons — then known as The Dust Brothers after the American team who produced the Beastie Boys — created a humongous track ‘Song To The Siren’ in Rowlands‘s bedroom.
Tom Rowlands (left) and Ed Simons dig their own hole
Having touted ‘Siren‘ around London‘s record shops. they couldn‘t find anyone willing to pick it tip. Spine—shattering it may have been but. at l l lbpm. it was ‘too slow’ for those who thought they were in the know. Andy Weatherall was a bit more canny and signed them to Junior Boys Own. Their second recording effort. the ‘l4th Century Sky’ EP (a reference to Chaucer. who they had studied together when at Manchester University) contained the ‘Chemical Beats' track: the ﬂoor-filler of the year.
The Dust Brothers became sought-after property. with A&R men waving cheque books and Virgin eventually winning out. But. Stateside. things were getting a bit iffy. The original Dust Brothers were not happy. Injunctions were served and the UK duo transmuted ‘Dust’ into ‘Chemical‘.
The ‘Chemical Brothers‘ description was certainly far more apposite for the duo. who were whipping London’s Heavenly Social club into an amyl nitrate—fuelled frenzy with a DJ set encompassing everything from The Beatles to The Beastie Boys.
Chemical Beats they were by name. and chemical beats they were by nature. particularly during the 26-minute. six~song frenzy of the first half of their debut album
z ' of iodine muse, every punter into a win: :fi'F: demonic narrating.
lirir Planer Dust. During the promotional tour. the Chemicals‘ Scottish dates attracted a mixture of cheesy ravers and die—hard indie lads.
‘I don't mind being seen as a Beavis and Butthead type of thing.‘ Simons told The List at the time. 'because we aren‘t cool. We are getting on a bit in age terms. but we still behave like little idiots. drink loads of beer and are brattish.’
Not that their appearance on stage was uncool. There was myopic Rowlands (the one with long hair) leaning over his sequencer. nose to knobs. swirling another acid noise into the mix until it was tuned to optimum effect. Then would come the breakdown under Simons‘s control. Looping away — ever harder. ever faster — would be a hypnotically repetitious groove that just demanded a beat. As the sweaty. moshing pit of bodies in front of the stage took a breath. the two would look at each other and grin in anticipation. before really messing with the punters' heads. With a simple flick of a switch. came a terror pack of killer beats. backed by a maddening mix of techno noise to drive every punter into a wild fit of demonic dancing.
The combination of adrenochrome— inducing rhythms. intensc noise and impeccable timing is a sound which other bands fall over themselves to tap into. with Simons and Rowlands in huge demand for remix duties. Some are lucky enough to receive the chemical touch. Others are not. And that. we thought. was that. One sound. loads of remix work. and thank you and good night from the (‘hemical Brothers. They were good. btit they can‘t do much more after that for a second album. l mean. calling in Gallagher for vocal duties wasjust a gimmick. right‘.’
Wrong! Wrong! Thrice wrong! ‘Who is this doing this synthetic kind of alpha. beta. psychedelic funkin‘?‘ demands Keith Murray in a spoken word sample on the track ‘Elektro Bank‘ on the new album Dig ’(mr ()er [lo/e. Well. it‘s the Chemicals of course. and this is more than a retread of [irii Planer Dust. it is a whole new branch in the evolutionary tree of chemical beats.
The acid-line-over-a-breakbeat formula still shines through on the occasional track. btit the Chemicals have created something far more complex and intelligent. Although noisy
and brattish. it has as L. jig“. “QC-its, much depth as anything
_ their original
we” namesakes. The Dust Brothers. have done for Beck on (hie/(1y.
So. are Rowlands and Simons the Beavis and Butthead of dance music‘.’ Not with the freestyle drum work-out on ‘Block Rockin Beats'. Not in ‘Where Do i Begin‘." which sees Beth Orton‘s mellow voice become drowned in a killer b—line. or even the brain-frying work—out of ‘The Private Psychedelic Reel'. But that won‘t stop them snickering as they unleash another pack of killer beats from behind their machines at the Glasgow Barrowland. You have been warned.
Dig Your Own Hole is out on Virgin on Mon 7 Apr. The Chemical Brothers play the Glasgow Barrowland on Wed 16 Apr.
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