The period between the late-1980s and the mid-1990s saw a rise in big beat electronic music. This different style introduced synthesizers, and jazz and funk samples from the 1960s and 1970s that can also be described as acid house music. Although it was first introduced in the year of 1989, the English duo of Tom Rowlands and Ed Simmons mastered the sub-genre with their classic album, Dig Your Own Hole, which was released in 1997. Better known as The Chemical Brothers, the duo brought the big beat revolution to the forefront of the music industry in the late 90s, which would eventually be incorporated in the genre of pop, especially with the likes of Madonna. Hip hop artists would also be inspired by this album’s production in some of their own projects years later.
On this particular album, The Chemical Brothers take those jazz and funk samples talked about previously, and mix it in with a little rock n’ roll as well. It’s the type of album that has never been perfected since its release, even by the duo themselves. The first track on this project, “Block Rockin’ Beats,” seems like a song that can be used to start or end in a movie as part of a soundtrack. The synthesizers on this hits you hard, and some of the screechy funky noises sound like something out of a Public Enemy song. It’s really hard to not get up and dance to this single. The album’s title track, “Dig Your Own Hole” is one of the highlights of not only this project, but in the electronic genre altogether. The old school funk style of the 80s, mixed in with some drums, and an up-tempo big beat makes for a good song to dance to at a sports stadium.
“Elektrobank” features the same type of up-tempo big beat production however, this song features some vocals from rapper DJ Kool Herc. The lyrics are catchy enough to sing along to, and the duo switches up the style nicely around the six minute mark. The acid house music starts to really kick in by the end of this track. Because three or four of these songs are around eight minutes long, Rowlands and Simmons can use everything they have in their arsenal.
The next track, “Piku,” is an interesting style of old school hip hop, and rock. “Setting Sun” is definitely more rock n’ roll influenced if anything. The duo uses their synthesizers to create these fast-paced drums, and Noel Gallagher gives some vocals to mix in with the chaos. “It Doesn’t Matter” shows them switching up to a more dance hall vibe, but still very listenable.
While the title says “Don’t Stop the Rock,” the track itself actually feels a lot more like psychedelic pop. For some reason, I had a more modern feeling with this single. It amazes me how many other genres this duo can mix into electronic synthesizers. It’s almost like they could tell the future by having a firm grasp on the past and present. “Get Up On it Like This” has this distorted guitar riff incorporated with a big beat that makes it sound like a hip hop track. This is by far their shortest single on the entire project, but they somehow still show off their ability to switch up different instruments and synthesizers in a short period of time.
“Lost in the K Hole” starts out as this laid back slow-tempo rap beat, which seems like something A Tribe Called Quest has definitely sampled from before. Then all of sudden, The Chemical Brothers incorporate this beautiful and dreamy piano in the background which somehow sounds pretty nice. Unexpectedly, this track is not only one you can dance to, but one that you can sit back and just listen to because of how quiet it is compared to the other songs. The song that shocked me the most however when listening to this multiple times was, “Where Do I Begin.”There was like three different genres in this one track. The first two minutes are definitely folk inspired. Yes, folk was mixed in with electronic (and it works). Then all of a sudden, the rock n’ roll style kicks in, and by he end, listeners are treated with acid house and a jack hammer-like sound.
The album closes out with “The Private Psychedelic Reel,” which sounds exactly like how the title says. This is the perfect end with a blend of everything that this album has lead up to.
While a band like The Chainsmokers has tried to re-invent the electronic wheel nowadays, The Chemical Brothers were one of the few bands in the genre talented enough to revolutionize the sound using different styles from different decades. And they did that exact thing to perfection with this album.