The great liberation of rock’n’roll from the compulsion to play guitars and band corsets, which the big beat movement led by The Prodigy and the Chemical Brothers sought again 25 years ago, has – as we have known at least since the Strokes – rather failed to materialize . But for that one year of 1997, with first DIG YOUR OWN HOLE and then THE FAT OF THE LAND released just three months apart, 20th-century conventions seemed truly transcended.


    And their last great representatives even supported this: In the wildest piece of the Chemical Brothers, the “Setting Sun” based on a looped beat of the Beatles piece “Tomorrow Never Knows”, Noel Gallagher, who was then accused of being a dad rocker, sang. He used an unreleased Oasis demo called “Comin’ On Strong” and would release the completed version of the song as “Lock All The Doors” in 2015. Crispian Mills of then-outrageously hip psychedelic revivalists Kula Shaker lent his voice to The Prodigy’s “Narayan.” While they delivered the mass-friendly Big Mac variant of the new sounds, Tom Rowland and Ed Simons served up sophisticated fusion cuisine with ingredients from New York in the early eighties, swinging London and distant dimensions that are best reached through the portal India.

    From today’s point of view, it’s unbelievable that they were No. 1 hits back then

    To the classic eleven tracks – from the opening “Block Rockin’ Beats” to the best Sunday morning hangover blues “Where Do I Begin” (how beautifully here the Brothers’ longtime partner Beth Orton sings the lines coming from Rowland’s heart over a droning guitar loop : “Sunday morning I’m waking up / Can’t even focus on a coffee cup / Don’t even know whose bed I’m in / Where do I start / Where do I begin”) to the race through the subconscious “The Private Psychedelic Reel” with co-pilot Jonathan Donahue from Mercury Rev – join five previously unreleased tracks and alternative takes in the anniversary edition. Of these, the punk demo of “Elektrobank” above all shows how close the brothers were to rock, which they brought into shape with equal devotion and ruthlessness.

    Although in the context of the brothers one should normally speak of the front woman: Instead of their own faces, mostly young women adorn the artworks and video clips of the duo. This may be based on aesthetic arguments bordering on sexism, but one could hardly imagine a more suitable image on the cover of “Setting Sun” than that of the 70s lady bursting with joie de vivre, which can also be found in the accompanying booklet.

    The Chemical Brothers would set the tone for another album, SURRENDER (1999) with what is probably their most well-known banger “Hey Boy Hey Girl”, and five years later with “Galvanize” (feat. Q-Tip) a surprising crossover hit in the Land in the top ten in Europe. However, their last six albums, although there was not a single work that was not at least good, mainly served to continue being in the media and to be able to tour with current material. They still headline big festivals with ease, but – as always – most hands go up when it says “Back with another one of those block’ rockin’ beats!”. From today’s perspective, it’s unbelievable that those were No. 1 hits at the time: “Setting Sun” pushed the radio evergreen “Breakfast At Tiffany’s” by Deep Blue Something off the throne in the UK, “Block Rockin’ Beats” even one five months later Almighty Spice Girls double A-side: “Mama”/”Who Do You Think You Are”.

    “Smile! You’re Massive”

    The brothers’ first album EXIT PLANET DUST – so named because they shamelessly adapted their original name The Dust Brothers, in honor of the US producer duo of the same name, but then discarded it – sold out in the USA immediately and nearly 100,000 times without a promotion. Today, the work is in nearly one million US homes.

    DIG YOUR OWN HOLE – named after a graffito on the wall in front of the spiritual brothers’ studio door – peaked at number 14 in the US, and even went on to win a Grammy for “Block Rockin’ Beats”. In the UK the record was one of six to date to debut in the domestic charts at number 1. With the line “Smile! You’re Massive” was the title of British music magazine Select’s first cover story about the Chemical Brothers. An exciting time of storm and urge, which may not be repeated, but which can now be relived with this jubilee edition, rubbing your eyes and pounding your ears in amazement.


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