Dig Your Own Hole

 
[ release details ]
Released 7th April 1997
[ cover ]

Dig Your Own Hole

[ tracklisting ]
UK/Europe/US CD
Freestyle Dust / Virgin Records (UK/Europe), XDUSTCD2
Astralwerks (US), ASW 6180
 01 Block Rockin' Beats (5:14)
 02 Dig Your Own Hole (5:27)
 03 Elektro Bank (8:18)
 04 Piku (4:54)
 05 Setting Sun (5:29)
 06 It Doesn't Matter (6:14)
 07 Don't Stop The Rock (4:48)
 08 Get Up On It Like This (2:48)
 09 Lost In The K Hole (3:51)
 10 Where Do I Begin? (6:51)
 11 The Private Psychedelic Reel (9:28)

UK/Europe/US 2 X 12"
Freestyle Dust / Virgin Records (UK/Europe) XDUSTLP2
Astralwerks (US), ASW 6180
 A1 Block Rockin' Beats (5:14)
 A2 Dig Your Own Hole (5:27)
 B1 Elektro Bank (8:18)
 B2 Piku (4:54)
 B3 Setting Sun (5:29)
 C1 It Doesn't Matter (6:14)
 C2 Don't Stop The Rock (4:48)
 C3 Get Up On It Like This (2:48)
 D1 Lost In The K Hole (3:51)
 D2 Where Do I Begin? (6:51)
 D3 The Private Psychedelic Reel (9:28)

UK/Europe Cassette
Freestyle Dust / Virgin Records (UK/Europe) XDUSTMC 2
 A1 Block Rockin' Beats (5:14)
 A2 Dig Your Own Hole (5:27)
 A3 Elektro Bank (8:18)
 A4 Piku (4:54)
 A5 Setting Sun (5:29)
 B1 It Doesn't Matter (6:14)
 B2 Don't Stop The Rock (4:48)
 B3 Get Up On It Like This (2:48)
 B4 Lost In The K Hole (3:51)
 B5 Where Do I Begin? (6:51)
 B6 The Private Psychedelic Reel (9:28)

UK/Europe Minidisc
Freestyle Dust / Virgin Records (UK/Europe), XDUSTMD 2
 01 Block Rockin' Beats (5:14)
 02 Dig Your Own Hole (5:27)
 03 Elektro Bank (8:18)
 04 Piku (4:54)
 05 Setting Sun (5:29)
 06 It Doesn't Matter (6:14)
 07 Don't Stop The Rock (4:48)
 08 Get Up On It Like This (2:48)
 09 Lost In The K Hole (3:51)
 10 Where Do I Begin? (6:51)
 11 The Private Psychedelic Reel (9:28)

UK/Europe Promo 12"
Freestyle Dust / Virgin Records (UK/Europe) XDUSTLPDJ 2
 Tracklisting Unknown

[ information ]

"Setting Sun" featured Noel Gallagher (Oasis) on vocals.
"Where Do I Begin" featured Beth Orton on vocals.
"The Private Psychedelic Reel" featured Jonathan Donahue (Mercury Rev).

The title if the album comes from the graffiti on the wall outside the South London studio (Orinoco Studios, now called Miloco) where it was recorded.

[ reviews ]

nme.com [ " 'Dig Your Own Hole' is the fully-honed full-on block-rocking cortex-hammering take-no-prisoners real deal"]

SATURDAY NIGHT, then. Death or glory. Spray-on testosterone. Old-skool trainers with steel toecaps. Amphetamine sulphate and anabolic steroid cocktails. The Terminator breakdancing on the video. Outfits accessorised with strap-on bazookas. Lager lager lager and, indeed, shouting. And, of course, 'Dig Your Own Hole' on the stereo; the lairy, hedonistic triumph of Lad Techno. For The Chemical Brothers are the superstars at the end of a process which began in the late-'80s with the advent of acid house and, crucially, Ecstasy. Generalising wildly for a moment, history remembers white dance music - before that fateful second Summer Of Love - as predominantly the terrain of women and gay men. Straight men don't dance, they loiter round the bar looking surly, waiting for a scrap or a shag, for some basic confirmation of their masculinity, a justification for them hanging out in a kitschy discotheque shithole. Then, of course, Ecstasy comes along, and with it a new, pounding, disorienting kind of club music. The drug - if it does its job - kills inhibitions, initiates celebratory touchy-feely hug-ins where once there were tawdry cattle markets. Lads are dancing now, dancing all night, fighting energy gone to be replaced by an entranced sublimation to that endless, overpowering beat. Everyone loves each other. The world is a wonderful and perfectly syncopated place. The New Age is upon us... A very short New Age, predictably. You know the story: as the '90s roll on, the E gets crapper, the chemically-enhanced cuddling vibes dissipate and hairier attitudes sneak in again. Speed and coke and beer are back on the menu and, though there's still dancing, the music's changing, too. Increasingly, the asexual euphoria of house is being replaced by an attitude-driven sound influenced by hip-hop and rock'n'roll: thrusting, aggressive, emphatically macho music for shadow-boxing rather than wispy hippy abandon. In other words - and the ropey history lesson's nearly over, incidentally - the peaceful, floppy aspects of dance music have been remorselessly stomped on by the newly-unreconstructed big-beat militia: hard, heavy, fierce and epitomised by The Chemical Brothers. From Shoom! to the Heavenly Social, from the M25 raves to Underworld's turbocharged Reading show, this is where we've come to: a place where the pre-eminence of handbag and indie in the UK's clubs and alternative nights are both being usurped by this momentous noise. Records like 'Going Out Of My Head' by Fatboy Slim, 'Take California' by Propellerheads, 'Whoosh' by Bentley Rhythm Ace and, imminently, 'Kowalski' by Primal Scream. Musicians who appropriate rock's traditionalist brutalism and latch it on to sledgehammer machine riffing, who can even draw an unapologetic retrohead like Noel Gallagher into their muscular, streamlined world. The world of 'Dig Your Own Hole', that is - bruised, pissed, moody, stubborn, phenomenally cocksure. A trashing of all dance music's spiritual, pacifying potential. A record designed not to calm savage beasts, but to make them even madder... It's fabulous, actually. The images we customarily imagine techno to soundtrack - great empty vistas of space, a stainless, genteel vision of the future - don't apply here. Rather, the Chemicals conjure up a grimy, urban and unavoidably violent nightworld. As the speedy, sliding title track whizzes by - a bit like 'Firestarter' but meaner, less camp - it evokes cars crashing, buildings collapsing, faces melting... everything, with compelling inevitability, exploding. Edge-of-the-seat stuff, if you're still sitting down. Which is unlikely, frankly. If 1995's 'Exit Planet Dust' was a rough'n'ready story-so-far, 'Dig Your Own Hole' is the fully-honed full-on block-rocking cortex-hammering take-no-prisoners real deal, the album whose party omnipotence will only be matched in '97 by The Prodigy's tortuously awaited third excursion.

mixmag [ "mad enough to be thrilling, slick enough for not even remotely coffee tables"]

There's no long wussy into into this album. No sir. A noise, a break, a beat and bam we're off. "Block Rockin' Beats" is a party stomping tune with a Schooly D sample (just the title) and a raucous beat. But relax, this is not another run through the 303 vs breakbeats formula of the first album "Exit Planet Dust": "Dig Your Own Hole" is something much more accomplished. Indeed this album which will elevate the Chemical Brothers to a musical level way, way higher than leaders of pub techno "beatz" pack.
Firstly, the beats are so much more intricate, so much cleverer, so much funkier. There are rock rhythms, rolling snares, robotic fours-to-the-floor, crazy jazz smashes. The whole thing is segued together with mad secreechy, squelchy noises. "Dig Your Own Hole" is their take on the hip hop beats and high speed auto mobiles combination first put together by Visnadi on "Racing Tracks" - with added crunchy guitar. "Pike" is a warm and chilled trip hop thing that flows like warm chocolate sauce. "It Doesn't Matter" takes the simplest machine rhythm and builds up a funky techno intensity Daft Punk would be proud of. Beth Orton sings so gloomily and seductively that "Where Do I Begin?" could survive on vocals alone.; but the Chems' rising, lushly melodic backing lifts this cut into a chill out classic. And closing track "The Private Psychedelic Reel" is the bravest, craziest, bad-ass rock-dance fusion you have ever heard: nine minutes of glorious psychedelica, breaking down like The Stone Roses, building back up with ragged funk abandon, dunking its head into a bucket of LSD and screaming "WOOOOAARRRGGGHH"! My cranium is turning into mulligatawny soup!" all the way to its finale.
And the whole thing fits together like a Day-Glo Rubik's Cube, mad enough to be thrilling, slick enough for not even remotely trendy coffee tables. It's as perfect an album for April 1997 as you could get, an apt distillation of the intensity and insanity of the Heavenly Social, three years of Oasis, and the whole damn fallout of then years of ecstasy and acid house. It will sell shitloads and everyone you know will own it by the summer. Not bad for a couple of geeks with sad hair, eh? (10/10)
  

q [ "It is said that on its release in America, three people died watching The Exorcist. Well, turned up loud, this track could prove an equally fatal entertainment" ]

"Dance: in every age and among every race, dancing has existed either as a recreation or as a religious manifestation, or bothÖ"

Yes, well, trust the Concise Oxford Dictionary Of Music to really talk it up. Dance music has twice achieved yer actual "phenomenon" status in the history of popular music since The Twist: in the late '70s during the disco boom, and in the late '80s as acid house, At both these points, music designed for dancing became intrinsic to peopleís day-to-day lives and - whoops! - influenced rock. And thatís where the fun starts. Punk could not dance. Lt could only jump up and down. Under the influence of disco, and the attendant imported technology, it turned into New Romanticism, a passing fad, and New Order, a lasting one. Mid-í80s indie could not dance. It could only nod, furiously. Once acid house arrived, simultaneously filling the tabloids and the pop charts with its evil, drug-crazed jive, a new breed of funky white rockíníroll band was formed: the Mondays, the Roses, The Charlatans, even The Farm, bless 'em (in effect, house music had even given the rock press someone to write about). Dancing as recreation, yes; as religious experience, well, if taking tablets that helped you see the meaning of life in your best mateís shoelaces, very possibly.

There was money in them thar pills, but things have moved on in the last chapter of the frugging millennium, Dance music has gone public. Itís now a thriving, merchandisable, above-the-counter culture, a truly nationwide lifestyle option, run by born-again businessheads who know that denouncing drugs is the only sensible option (and that the E used to be better in the old days anyway). The DJ, as predicted, is the star. While grunge and Beatlemania have driven rock back to its roots, the real indie-dance crossover is there, right in front of our noses: namely, Noel Gallagher singing on The Chemical Brothersí Setting Sun single. Number 1 in the UK last October (displacing, significantly, the dreary Breakfast At Tiffanyís by Deep Blue Something), it sold a luxurious 300,000 copies here, and even reached 96 in the Billboard Hot 100. Accredit any amount of Setting Sunís success to Gallagherís vocal, but remember that the Chemicalsí 1995 debut album, Exit Planet Dust, had already "done" 250,000 (plus 175,00 over the water). Substitute the names of Underworld, Orbital or The Prodigy, and the story would remain largely the same. And thatís something to make a song and dance about.

Exit Planet Dust, with its flagship single Leave Home, was a largely instrumental, electronically constructed album which rock fans wanted very much to like. Some succeeded, and second single Life Is Sweet, with proper singing on it by The Charlatansí Tim Burgess, helped (a similar pill-sweetening exercise to Leftfieldís deployment of John Lydon and Curveís Toni Halliday), but there was much left over that either bored or mystified those "out of the know". Dig Your Own Hole has already been described by one half of the Chemical Brothers, Ed Simons, as "a wide screen, Technicolor version of the first album". By that, he means he and faux-sibling Tom Rowlands have increased their noise palette.

Sampled black voices still abound (the campaign trail-blazing single, Block Rockiní Beats relies on a cocksure "shout" from forgotten old-school rapper Schoolly D for its vocal way-in) as do swathes of high-powered techno background and the obligatory sirens. But it is Dig Your Own Holeís joyful revival of seemingly unfashionable sounds from yesterdisco - a teethsucking hi-hat on It Doesnít Matter, a bass thatís positively Level 42 on the title track, tons of outmoded hip hop punctuation of the "Yes yes, y'all" variety, and even some whistles! - that makes it such a rare treat. It goes without saying that thereís more rock in it, too.

While reveling in artifice and celebrating the inauthentic, the Chemicals have also gone the other way and achieved a simply stunning degree of realistic drum-looping on this record, such that on the albumís tailor-made finale, The Private Psychedelic Reel, youíd swear a tubsman was punishing skin throughout, when in fact itís just Memorex. There is technical wizardry here that would steam up James Burkeís glasses.

Recorded over 12 months in their own South London bolthole, Dig Your Own Hole manages to keep all the plates spinning at once: ingenious recycling, go-anywhere experimentalism, the thrill of traditional instruments (Rowlands is an enthusiastic student of the guitar) and the straight-ahead rock discipline of tracks with beginnings, middles and ends - if no actual lyrics about "my baby" in between. Individual tracks last anywhere between three and nine minutes; some have very definite places to go, others roll and see what they pick up along the way. Block Rockiní Beats, already familiar, is a robust yet elastic little fella, bass-driven, squeal-assisted and, again, laced with a highly convincing "real" drum sound. It could be Pop Will Eat Itself (a band who may yet become relevant again). Dig Your Own Hole, the track, is a squelchy analogue synth sprinter which goes "hurrghl", possibly ironically, possibly not. Like a dance track, it is instrumental and aimed at the feet; however, like a rock track it shifts up and down gear in all the right spots, and has a whistlable riff. This is advanced entertainment.

The Chemical Brothersí self-styled Museum Of Sounds continues, with the eight-minute Elektro Bank, wherein a mangled Vocoder is either used or recreated. It slows down from frantic to lolloping at the end, too, and goes all fuzzy and Martian in a Future Sound Of London style. Fans of James Bernard and Tristram Caryís music for the Quatermass films might well be impressed.

Piku is tight and clipped, like something electro-pioneer Mantronix would have done, except with the surface noise of the sampled vinyl utterly undisguised (and styled so that it sounds like itís stuck at one point - what fun these men are having). Voices, thus far, are still at a premium. Setting Sun redresses the balance, still sounding like a record too weird to have topped the charts: as if Gallagher has been kidnapped by aliens and is trying to get a message through.

It Doesnít Matter mixes up spoken word ("It doesnít matter") in a manner not so far away from David Byrne and Brian Enoís My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts, then gets into step with an assertive acid signature and goes on and on and on. Itís as close to filler as the album gets, but no bad racket, and would, as people who donít go to clubs say, sound great in a club. It Doesnít Matter turns into Donít Stop The Rock without anybody noticing. Simons and Rowlands are DJs by trade, lest we forget, splicing together other folkís records at clubs like Londonís Heavenly Social by night, while splicing their own by day. Once the listener is familiar with Dig Your Own Hole, its track listing (a hoary old concept with mostly instrumental music, frankly) reveals an immaculate dramatic structure, and it soon becomes improper to dip into. It would take a brave man to say that this is the new classical music, but the word "symphony" does leap to mind as the nutty, existential techno dissolves into economical hip hop and, in the final "movement", slows right down to accommodate the balmy Beth Orton on Where Do I Begin? - which is folk music before itís dance music, and highly unlikely to elicit the response "bangin"í.

A near-cajun guitar loop carries the first three minutes, with Orton asking "Where do I start? Where do I begin?", part-lullaby, part-mantra, then the "drums" take over, and, while still gentle, the thing subtly rocks, with wonky industrial groaning picking it up at the finish.

The aforementioned Private Psychedelic Reel is Dig Your Own Holeís epic finale, a nine-minute exploration into that musty old thesis If Lennon Were Still Alive, What Would The Beatles Sound Like? The raw material was supplied by Jonathan Donahue, a member of proto-slackers Mercury Rev. And, as if the lines between musical genres werenít smudged enough already, this upbeat, sitar-studded rocket ride would do any rock band proud as an instrumental climax. Once the drums kick in, and the synths start to fly off into the sky like fireworks, the effect is breathtaking.

It is said that on its release in America, three people died watching The Exorcist. Well, turned up loud, this track could prove an equally fatal entertainment, such is the relentless nature of its musical spiral. The Cult, Led Zeppelin, Oasis, Kula Shaker: any one of these epic rock bands might appreciate the Chemical Brothersí innate sense of occasion. If the idea of not wanting a song to end sounds like a shallow clichť, The Private Psychedelic Reel could make it heartfelt again.

Listening hard to this album is actually tiring. All instrumental work, be it Vivaldi or Trans Am, risks being used as background music, and Dig Your Own Hole, for all of its innovation and fun, is no different. Equally, what does an album with no words actually say to the listener in these complex times we live in? It says, Get off your arse; it also says, Go out and make a record, which, as options, arenít all bad. Punk may well not be dead after all.

You donít have to dance to it. You donít have to hear it in a club. You donít have to pretend you got it six months ago on white label. Dig Your Own Hole is simply a clever bit of work that sounds terrific if youíre drunk, depressed or deliriously happy. And itís a record for all ages. In 1997, youíre only as old as you feel about the Chemical Brothers.

salon.com [ "With Noel Gallagher's foghorn vocals and a snaky riff that would fit right in on "The White Album's" gnarly third side, "Setting Sun" works the crossover angle without shame" ]

at least from a Yankee perspective, England's Chemical Brothers seem to have hit on the perfect soundtrack for "swinging" London circa 1997. Addicted to old school hip-hop and orchestral rock, the two mixmasters have seduced all your sullen guitar die-hards and stubborn pop melody fiends into crashing the all-night disco party. It may be a little late, say just near dawn, but the laggards are finally dancing; and not only that, they're feeling deliciously au courant. Why? Because the Chemical Brothers' hybrid of techno and rock makes the latter sound more dangerous than it has in a while, juicing up rock 'n' roll into something that might well threaten a proper British radio announcer, all over again.

The track causing most of this excitement is, of course, "Setting Sun" (which was, yes, pulled from the air by a BBC DJ). With Noel Gallagher's foghorn vocals and a snaky riff that would fit right in on "The White Album's" gnarly third side, "Setting Sun" works the crossover angle without shame. The fact that you could read the song as a jab at Oasis' rockist nostalgia ("I like the way our visions are fading away") only adds to its blissfully idiotic apocalyptic rush. Halfway through, the combination of shrieking, dithering synthesizers and frenzied hip-hop drums starts to resemble nothing so much as an amphetamized take on the Edgar Winter war horse "Frankenstein" -- and, weirdly enough, folks, that's a good thing.

Unfortunately, "Setting Sun" stands leagues above the rest of the Chemical Brothers' second album, "Dig Your Own Hole." Not stinky for the most part, just not startling, the 10 other tracks are built with many of the tools the single incorporated: adrenalin-fed drum loops, insistent keyboard patterns, repetition escalating into combustion and breakdown, distorted, propulsive vocal samples. On both "Dig Your Own Hole" and its predecessor, "Exit Planet Dust," the Chemical Brothers have tended to use these techniques, born of hip-hop and acid house, the same way a rock band organizes drums, guitar riffs, momentum: They've made them electronic versions of rock clichťs.

Sometimes this translation recharges those clichťs, as on the incorrigible "Block Rockin' Beats," with its frantic faux guitar interplay, funky bass and underwater detonations. "Electro Bank" heaves from R2D2 freakout to Led Zeppelin grind via more explosions and a snappy sampled vocal assist from Keith Murray. "Piku" brings a sinuous pulse recalling Ted Nugent's "Stranglehold" blinking into the new day of breakbeats and chopped-up vocals. But on the one slow number, "Where Do I Began," wizened rock ballad tropes rise up and strangle any sonic novelty. And with "The Private Psychedelic Reel," a vaunted collaboration with rock deconstructionists Mercury Rev, the Chemical Brothers achieve the psychedelic pomposity and vacuity of, say, Simple Minds -- proving that electronica can be every bit as tediously trad as old time rock 'n' roll. There's even a fake ending. I don't think they're joking.